So, writing is hard. It’s really, really hard. And you know what? Even though I just published a book and I’ve been writing fiction for a few years, starting a new project is still intimidating. It’s super frustrating sometimes when I wrestle with an idea for hours, trying to turn it into something with a clear setting, conflict, characters, plot, etc., and all I manage to eek out on the page are a few hundred or maybe a thousand words of what seems like ugly, useless dribble (or even more frustrating, some rough brainstorming and no actual storytelling put to the page). Sometimes I do manage to spew and clean up an opening scene I like pretty quickly, but get stuck on the premise for days because I have absolutely no idea where to take the story next–none of my plot ideas feel quite right. Producing a satisfying plot is probably my personal greatest challenge when it comes to writing. Deriving a good set of tangible and intangible conflicts for an idea I’m excited about is something I struggle with for some reason, and my fear of writing something with a bunch of “cool” scenes strung together that ultimately don’t really make any sense as a whole unit is probably the leading contributor of writer’s block for me. Those are the moments where I feel ridiculously stumped about how I’m going to make it through the the current story and turn it into something people will actually find satisfying.
I wish I could connect plotting and putting words on the page in my head like some writers, the “plot architects” who have to have a detailed outline before they put anything down, can do (they make writing look so easy). But, as it is, I usually end up writing a scene first to get excited about it, then I “plot” or plan my story in increments, stepping back from time to time to survey the story as a whole to see if it’s still on track, unraveling in an interesting way. I have to remind myself that even the stories I’ve completed that I consider “polished” began as a weird and wildly uncertain little messes just like this one. I’ve decided that I should approach new stories like they’re experiments rather than thinking I should know exactly what I’m doing every time.
On that note, here are some opening lines for a number of possible stories and stories-in-progress I have going now (though I can’t guarantee they’re all going to turn into something complete). Enjoy!
1. I suck in the dry, stale air of the economy motel room nestled somewhere on the outskirts of Gilbert, Arizona as the ear-splitting screams of my college sweetheart and wife of two days, Susan, knife me into consciousness. (Male protagonist)
2. Rebecca Whiting Ericson [I hate this name] felt as though the world had frozen in time, groping the hilt of the old Spanish sword the cartel leader had just rammed through her ribs.
3. [Female Protagonist] moaned at the throbbing pain from the bullet wounds in her right thigh and shoulder as Dr. Priscilla Muna tied her to an intricately carved limestone slab in the ruins of a Mayan temple.
4. Vanessa emerged in her new body, slimy and cold.
5. A bead of sweat trickles down my face somewhere at the surface of my thoughts. Or it might be a tear. I hate it when I cry in my sleep. It’s subtle how the sensation penetrates my nightmare, like hot wax weeping down the cool, immaculate surface of a candle. Sharp enough to be disturbing but too quiet to wake me. (Female protagonist)
6. Dinah collapsed to her knees at the roots of the tree.