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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

Please welcome guest blogger Laura Bickle

Writing a novel is like falling in and out of love. It's a relationship with stages. There's bliss, angst, reconciliation, and letting go. There are beginnings, middles and ends. And also sometimes shouting and tears.

Beginnings are tough for me. Nothing intimidates me more than staring at a blank page. There's absolutely nothing there but a sea of white. I chew on my lip and doubt myself. Can I conjure something from nothing? What if it never comes together?

I reluctantly tap out a first line. A hook. I squint at it, chew on my lip some more.

Is this concept worth pursuing? Is it attractive enough to chase through the next several months, through research and dreams and the flu? Is it going to be one of those easy relationships, with effortless flow? Or will this one be like pulling my own teeth?

There's no way to know. I futz and mumble to myself and stare at the first five pages, dawdle around the first chapter. I fret aloud and talk to the cat about the new relationship.

The cat usually ignores me. I screw up the courage to take the plunge. I decide that I like the idea. I flirt with it a bit, chase it around like a butterfly. I court it. Sometimes, I can be trusted to even put on a clean T-shirt while typing. I'm trying to impress it. I even make an outline.

And it flirts back with me...with snatches of phrases. Images. I type and scribble notes, fearful of losing anything. Typing, typing...

And then I'm suddenly at the middle. I'm all of a sudden in a committed relationship with the book. I can feel it taking shape, developing a life of its own. It starts to have its own moods. Sometimes, it's cloying. Sometimes distant.

But we fall into a rhythm, greet each other at the same time every day. A standing date.

We talk. We do more than that. The book and I have discussions. In the middle, there are multiple ways for things to go. I try some things that work. I try some that don't. I pull out the note cards, fuss with my outline. I spread cards out on the floor all around me, trying to analyze and dissect what's working, what's not.

Sometimes, it's a test of endurance, pushing through. But I can see to the end. When I have the ending firmly structured, the last ten thousand words fly. It's bliss. I see where all the tendrils of thought and plot threads I had developed in the beginning curve back around. I think I understand the story, now: the hidden symbols, the growth of the character. I understand what it is about the story that attracted me to it. I understand what I'm afraid of about it.

The end is the best part. It gathers momentum, takes wing.

And flies right out of my hands. I type THE END on the last page.

And I feel a pang of sadness. It's gone. It's moved out of my life, out of my mind and my heart. There's still some tweaking to be done. Editing. Smoothing. But that part feels like the post-mortem of the relationship.

The story's gone. I did what I needed to: I gave the story a voice. And it left me. The nest's empty. Lonely.

And the only solution is to fill it again, with another egg of a story. Another beginning.

Laura Bickle has worked in library science, criminology, and technology for several years. She lives in the Midwestern U.S. with her chief muse, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE. More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here: www.salamanderstales.com

Rogue Oracle

The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.

Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around - and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn't need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.

Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards - and Tara's increasingly ominous dreams - suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi's Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…


Berinn said...

Laura, I'd say your process is working because I love your books!

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much, Berinn! I'm trying hard to overcome my fear of the blank page. :-S

Donyale said...

Laura, you described it perfectly. I too felt a sense of accomplishment and sadness when I finally wrote "The End" I started Dark Oracle and I love the story and your writing style. Awesome!!!

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Thank goodness there's always more stories to fill those blank pages. Abolish blank pages everywhere!

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much, Donyale! I really appreciate the encouragement. :-)

Hee...sounds like a mission, Jeffe!

Alexis Morgan said...

The only way I've been able to overcome my fear of the blank screen is to try out different opening lines/scenes/paragraphs in a spiral notebook until I've got it right. Then I transfer it the computer and roll on from there. For some reason crossing out stuff on paper is less scary than hitting the delete button for me.

And writing "the end" is always a bit of a thrill.

Laura Bickle said...

Alexis, I'm with you on the notebooks. I usually have voluminous notes before sitting before the blank screen. Sort of like armor.

And "The End" are the most beautiful words!

Danielle Monsch said...

I really like the way you put this - and I'm not just saying this to suck up for free drinks.

It's a way of looking at writing that doesn't freeze you up, but accept the process - good and bad - and lets the book flow.

Viola Estrella said...

Hi Laura,
I was nodding my head all the way through your post. Perfect example of the journey from start to finish. Especially the sad feeling at the end. I went through that last week...and still a little this week. Great idea to dive into another project. :-)

Laura Bickle said...

Danielle, lmao! I do tend that we writers tend to romanticize the process, and expect that everything will be wine and roses until the end. But as a story grows a life of its own, things often don't go so smoothly.

Viola, hugs and congrats on finishing your project! And you're absolutely right...time to pick a new project and fall in love again.