Monday, July 20, 2015

Believe in Yourself. Your Characters Do.

by Vicki Delany

I started writing a new book today.  Now if you know my writing you know that's not a particularly unusual or special event.  But it always seems special to me. 

No matter how many times I’ve done it, it’s a daunting task beginning a novel.  I have to turn one blank page into some 300 pages full of a different assortment of letters.

I recently came across this old post from way back in 2009 that works as well as advise for getting started as for finding your way though.


If there is one thing successful fiction authors have to have it’s a belief in themselves. They have to believe absolutely that they have the ability to create a good story.

Plenty of people, probably numbering in the millions, have an idea for a book or have begun to write one. More often than not, nothing comes of it, and the work is never finished. In many cases they hit the ‘soggy middle’ or can’t find their way through a tricky plot point, and give up.

Once you have a book or two under your belt, there comes a time in which you believe in yourself, or in your characters, and that knowledge will carry you through.

Case in point – I am a rough outliner, meaning that I have an idea of how I want my story to progress, and what obstacles are going to impede the characters. But the outline is drawn in broad strokes only and all the details have to be filled in as I go.

I’m working on Smith and Winters #4 (2015 Note: The book became Negative Image) in which there is a subplot involving a series of break and enters when people are away on vacation. From the very beginning I knew I had to come up with something that the homeowners had in common. Some reason why these people were broken into and others were not. But the reason had to be obscure – otherwise the police would discover it quickly. Cancelling the newspaper, or using the same house sitter, is too obvious. Trusting myself to think up something eventually, I made a note on a blank page saying “Reason XX knows these houses are empty?” and then settled down to write the book. I was approaching the end of the first draft. Still no idea. Kennel? Kids sports teams? Nope, Sergeant Winters would have considered that. I have to be smarter than Sergeant Winters.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I trusted myself to come up with an idea, but I will confess I was getting a bit nervous. And then it happened - I was taking a walk, thought of something I’d seen, and – presto - I knew the answer. So perfect it even fit into another plot point without jiggling. 

The moral of the story is to trust yourself. Or trust your characters. I’m sure John Winters would have thought of it eventually.


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Great post, Vicki. It's good to know that even someone with as many books under their belt as you can still feel a bit intimidated, yet excited, to start a new adventure.

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks, Vicky, for this post. I'm starting book 3 today and am a little nervous. This reminds me to trust in the process and just keep moving.

Donis Casey said...

I've been working on a new book for only a couple of weeks. It started out as a bunch of unrelated scenes as I fleshed out characters and ideas, and just yesterday it dawned on my that my unrelated scenes are starting to adhere and make a narrative. It's amazing how even if you don't know how to begin, it'll work out if you just begin.

Eileen Goudge said...

Thanks, Vicki. The timing on this post couldn't have been better. I'm writing the last chapter of my WIP, and was dreading the moment of reckoning when I faced the blank page of a new book. Nice to know I'm not alone in my fears. And yes, I do trust the process. I've done it before, I can do it again.