This is for Sharon, a wonderful writing friend from way back in the e-zine 50-something days:) Her question was: How do you know where to start a story?
This is one of the reasons it’s easier to be a writer than a knitter. In knitting, if you miss a row, it has to be unraveled immediately. In the first draft of a novel, all you need is the slightest whiff of an idea. You write it down and, if it’s a book, ideas and words accumulate. I freewrite first drafts with no plan or plot in mind until something comes to me, like a gift. No unraveling until the first draft is complete in all it’s clumsy awkwardness.
Usually at about 30K or so, I have a real grasp of what I want the book to be, so I print it out and read over what I have. Then I make an outline, which I rarely follow to the letter. Ideas are still coming, much of the time faster than I can write them down. I take notes, reminding me of a scene I must write and the location I want to put it in. At this point I also create a collage incorporating images, patterns, and colors that remind me of the book and its characters. That collage usually goes on a corkboard above my writing desk.
As you see from the picture above, because I recently moved house after 25 years, I saved just a little bit of my last collage: the names of my characters. Since I have a series (Blue Lake) started, I am going to keep my ocean picture and the snapshot of Al & me on our honeymoon with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I plan to create my next collage on Pinterest. If I ever get this WIP finished.
In revision, my beginning is usually cut. That’s how it goes. Lots of darlings are killed in revision. But that’s another post. The short answer to your question, Sharon: I don’t decide where to start. An idea knocks and I answer the door.