Begin at the Beginning... or Not
I reread the first two Avery and Gunner books. I’m also reading two novels set in that era and researching the post-Civil War years. I come across something interesting, then off I go pursuing that! Print this out, highlight that, start a new pile. I feel like the train in the station, whistle blowing, steam hissing, excitement fills the air, but the wheels haven’t started turning. Maybe I’ll go there…or maybe not. Maybe I should just get the ticket punched and get on board. Let the story engineer decide where we go from here.
I read a lot of posts on facebook especially in writers’ groups and blogs about this first step in the novel process. I like to start at the beginning. Some say they write chapters as they think of them and organize them later. It’s interesting that some writers outline the entire thing. They may use a story arc or a plot sheet. Some just start writing. Many authors keep track of how many words a day they write while others don’t want or need to know. Some authors edit as they go. Others write the entire draft then edit. Until the manuscript has passed through several drafts, been edited, revised and rewritten, it isn’t finished, so it doesn’t really matter what the process is the author uses to get to that place. Just that he does arrive there at some point.
I never worry about finishing. I’m struggling to get started, though. I think the Civil War was so epic, that the post war years pale by comparison. My job is to go from those highly charged years of action and drama, to the winding down and make it just as compelling and interesting as the war. The Civil War years have been greatly romanticized. Now I’m challenged to keep the romance alive during mundane times. Avery and Gunner aren’t the problem. They will always be favorite characters. It’s their environment in the aftermath of the war that seems to lack inspiration. So, for that reason, I think they may need to get on the train with me. We need to go where the action is!
“Go West, young man, go West.” This was an1865 editorial encouraging Civil War veterans to take advantage of the Homestead Act and colonize the public lands. What do you think? Could this be a beginning?