Before you put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, I recommend you pause. Do you know where this character's story is heading? Do you know what this fabulous scene in your head means? Is it the opening scene or the culminating scene? If the protagonist is speaking to you, is what s/he's saying the beginning of the story? Are those five (or twenty) words that will cause chaos and be the catalyst that changes lives?
If you don't know, take time to try to envision where the story is heading. If you can do that, you will save yourself a lot of time and work.
A few years back, a character came into my head and would not go away. So I began writing her words. I was probably 30,000 words in when the Brown Foundation offered me a four-week fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center. I basically wrote and walked for the month. It was a fabulous experience. When I went home, I had around 90,000 words.
Problem is nothing had happened to move the story forward. The character was still 12 years old. Yes, she was fully developed and I knew everything about her. But the real story had barely begun.
So I had to completely start over. The book now begins with her as an adult. All that I had written before then was not wasted, though. I knew all that had happened to her as a child and I pulled on that in flashbacks or as foundation for her drive and motivation.
I also learned that for most of us, while knowing the character's backstory is important, it's also a time-consuming process to write it all down. The sooner you know when the real story begins, the better off you are. Knowing where the story is going is also important. If you let the character lead you, I've found that characters want you to know everything and will take you off onto side roads and minutiae that have nothing to do with the story you're telling.
Write an outline. Or compose bullet points for the story. What are the major events in this book? Where is it going? Where does it begin? Who are the characters involved? You don't have to be a slave to your list or outline, but just having a guide will help you stay on track. You may veer off that track, but just having it will help you get back on it.
I’m hoping Angel Sometimes will be out soon. Here is the teaser:
Angel had a plan: Go home to Oklahoma and ask her mother why she loved her one day, then threw her out like garbage the next. Since her mother was never going to come looking for her, she'd go to her mother. Before finishing the trek home to confront her parents, she needed three things: a high school diploma, a car, and a gun.As you can surmise from that, what happened in her childhood is important, but it's not the story. The story is her life now and what happens when she goes home.
If you understand what your story is really about, you can save a lot of time and work.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Helen Ginger is an author and blogger. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its thirteenth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Co-Partner of Legends In Our Own Minds® and Coordinator of Story Circle Network’s Editorial Services.