Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Start at the Beginning

So, I didn't place in the Clarity of Night "Whispers" short story contest.  I thought I'd crafted the piece well, so I was a little disheartened.  (Then again, it seemed as though several of the pieces I really liked were overlooked, too.  It was a tough contest.  Lots of great entries.)  I did receive an honorable mention in the "Readers' Choice" category from those writers who entered the contest, which was a lovely gesture.

As I said, I was sort of dejected for most of Monday. By Monday evening, I was over myself.  I knew I needed to write, write, write; practice, pratice, practice.  So I did what any sensible, serious writer would do.

I diverted myself.

 I went to the art store and bought a set of art pencils, a sketch pad, and one of those "You, too, can learn to draw" sorts of how-to books. (And I'm not a big fan of how-to books.)

You have to understand, I don't draw.

I mean, I really don't draw.

When my son comes to me with his notebook and wants me to draw something from his PECS board, I end up drawing something that more or less looks like a blob of goo. "Look, honey!" I say to him. "Airplane!" He gives me the look that says, "Mama, I'm autistic, not dumb" and goes off to find his Aunt Kiki or Dada, people with real drawing ability.

So as I sat in bed last night, putting shape after shape in my sketchbook, I thought about the creative parallels. The art book says that drawing is about logic; anyone can learn.  (Bloody untrue, but whatever.) As I sketched cube-blob after cube-blob and shaded in the cube-blobs with shadow-blobs, I wondered what the building blocks of writing are.

I know the pieces -protagnoist, antagonist, plot, setting, point of view, climax (to start). And all of the tiny details over and in between. But what comes first? What's the one thing you need to be able to start?


  1. I really liked your story. I thought most of them were par excellence. Truly. I am almost sorry that this is a contest and not a writing exercise. I'm never good with choosing 'winners.'
    Oh well...
    Glad you're over your dejected feeling, because you 're a good writer.

  2. The one thing missing from your list is conflict. Or tension, if you prefer to call it that. I suppose if you can't get all the other things right without tension, though.

    I don't think there's a right answer to your question about what comes first, though. I've been inspired by all of these things at different times, and the others have become clear as I've worked out the details.

    Congratulations on the mention in the readers choice. Fifty other people (including yours truly) didn't get even that! Good job rising above.

  3. What's the one thing you need to be able to start?

    The absolutely irresistible urge to write it.

    And I loved your entry, btw.

  4. I always start with an idea, not quite a hook, but a premise. That premise usually has a protagonist attached. From there I work out an ending or conclusion, and the emotions involved.

    That's about as skeletal of an outline as I ever use. Then I start writing.

  5. I have a lot more publishing credentials than the people who run these many blogging contests, and I never place. It's arbitrary -:)



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