Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo’

The Magic of the First Line

In a recent workshop a student asked, “What is the best way to start writing a story?” Though I was tempted to prescribe composing in purple ink on a yellow legal pad while sitting in a green leather chair in a room with exactly seven windows, I settled on sharing a bit about my own fiction writing process.

I do a lot of thinking before I ever start to write. Storylines and characters form, shift, and morph until I finally begin to make notes. I keep paper and a pen in every room of the house, and scribble down scenes, descriptions, and dialog fragments that arrive.

Once I feel that I know the characters fairly well, I begin transferring character and scene notes into StoryBlue (software for writers). This always feels like the first official step in establishing structure, but it’s not yet the beginning of writing.

Sometimes my writing process seems to stall at this point and I’ll turn to other projects. The story simmers at the back of my mind until a perfectly formed first line* presents itself. As soon as it arrives and I write it down, the story starts to unfold, scene after scene.

I’ve tried writing without the magical first line, but find that until it arrives I struggle to capture the voice of the story. It’s almost as if the story elements have to go through a process of ripening before they’re ready to be written. For me, that luscious first line is the beginning of a writing harvest.

So… how do you start writing fiction? NaNoWriMo is coming up, so now’s a good time to start thinking about it!

*The first line may change by the end of the book, but at the moment of beginning, it’s perfect for its purpose.

NaPiBoWriWee- Another Crazy Challenge

National Picture Book Writing Week, the brainchild of author Paula Yoo, is scheduled for May 1-7. I’m planning to participate, even though I’ll be at at Malice Domestic for the first couple of days. If you’re going to participate, leave a comment below, or stop back by during the week. I’d love to hear how it’s going.

Here are a few excerpts from the press release announcing the event:

In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) where people across the country try to write a complete novel in one month, the fine folks at www.paulayoo.com have decided to start the first ever National Picture Book Writing Week, affectionately nicknamed “NaPiBoWriWee.”

The goal? To write 7 picture books in 7 days.

To summarize, the basic rules:

1. Midnight May 1st to 11:59 p.m. May 7th: Write 7 separate and complete picture books.

2. You are NOT allowed to write the same picture book in 7 variations. Each book must be complete and separate.

3. No minimum word count. Instead, each book must have a clear beginning, middle and end.

4. You are allowed to brainstorm and research book topics before May 1st. Outlines are acceptable. First draft writing is NOT. Do NOT write your books before May 1st – only brainstorming, taking notes, and outlining are allowed.

5. You are NOT allowed to write a single word of your draft until midnight May 1st.

6. There is NO minimum word count required. The fine folks of NaPiBoWriWee require nothing but your word of honor. We will embrace the Honor Code. If you say you have written 7 complete picture book drafts in 7 days, we will believe you. Besides, why would you lie to us? You’re writing picture books for little children! Picture Book Authors are nice, honest people who would never lie!

7. Please register on http://paulayoo.com/ in order to write comments on Paula’s blog every day with your progress and questions. Go here for help: http://paulayoo.com/content/help-and-faqs

8. If you plan to blog about your NaPiBoWriWee journey, please include a link to:http://paulayoo.com/

9. Several winners will be chosen from random of all the people who comment from May 1-7 onhttp://paulayoo.com/ or who email me to request to be on the drawing list at paula at paulayoo dot com. Winners will receive an autographed copy of my books “SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY” (Lee & Low Books 2009)  and “SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY” (Lee & Low ’05), along with items from our NapiBoWriWee Store(http://www.cafepress.com/paulayoo) and a couple of surprise autographed book prizes from special guest authors!

10. For those of you attending the national Society of Children Book Writers & Illustrators(http://scbwi.org/) conference in August, let me know and I’ll arrange for an informal gathering during the conference so we can meet in person and celebrate our first NaPiBoWriWee!