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Organic Writing

This past week I had someone ask for advice about how to start a book. As I responded, I started considering my own writing process. I feel the best way to describe my writing is that it’s organic. On the one hand, that’s just a nice way of saying I have few organizational skills and like to fly by the seat of my pants. On the other hand, it’s also an admission that sometimes it’s far from pretty, sometimes it has to be pruned back, and other times I just have to let it grow however it wants. There’s a reason that the maze in Just Ella isn’t perfectly tame. I find beauty in the unruly way that nature grows.

Mult idea seed

The first step in growing something is to have a seed. I don’t have big ideas come to me. I have to start with one clear picture in my head. The tiniest of ideas can be used to create something amazing—a bit of dialogue that I find intriguing, the broken expression on a character’s face. Once I have just a seed of an idea that interests me, that’s all I need. Then I have to take that one moment of something and try to describe it, try to do it justice. As I do, the whys and hows of the situation start to fill in and a plot can evolve from there.

That’s not to say a plot will evolve from there. Sometimes the seed doesn’t even sprout. Most of the time, I don’t even know what kind of seed it is. Sometimes it comes up out of the ground, looking green and promising, only to find out later that it’s a weed. Not every seed of an idea will grow into something pretty. But at least you planted the idea.

The best way to start a book is to just start. Start in the middle if you need to. Start by outlining if that’s how you brainstorm and process best. Start by describing your character’s physical appearance. Start by describing the types of relationships you’d like to explore.

Just start.

Find a bit of something that intrigues you and try to describe it, then see if you can make it grow from there. Write one scene; write it well. And if you like the idea and think it has promise, keep going and don’t get discouraged when you hit a wall. If you’re patient enough, and persistent enough, you can make it into something. Maybe it will be a single scene, a short story, or a chapter in the middle of the plot. Whatever it is, whether it’s good or bad, at least it’s a start.

Published inWriting Process

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