I'm starting to write a brand new book and I’m at that giddy stage, the in-love stage. Everything is possible! The pages ahead of me are an endless open territory. My characters will do great things! Hideous things! Gut-wrenching things! There are no limits to what I can do with setting! It will be a character in itself. And the plot? It will weave into complicated rivulets that will test the limits of my character! That’s what beginnings are, open territory where everything and anything is possible. Inspiration abounds.
But I’ve written enough books to know that after the “everything is possible” stage comes the “oh crap, this isn't going exactly as I planned” stage. Inspiration alone doesn't get a book get written. And that fact makes me mindful of craft, using all the tools at my disposal to help me tell the story in the best possible way I can. At this early stage I begin revisiting and polishing up the tools I have, and always, always, begin looking for new ones. In terms of craft, I am forever an apprentice and I'm grateful for that.
This last year when I was on tour with Alyson Noel and Jessica Brody, they both told me about the Beat Sheet from Save the Cat, a book on screenwriting by Blake Snyder. It helps you break your story down into fifteen essential beats. Much of what is covered can apply to novels too. It intrigued me. So I’m using a modified version of that to organize my thoughts.
Why don’t I just use the same methods I’ve used on all my other books? To a certain extent I do, but alas, no two books are ever alike, so they all have to be approached slightly differently. And maybe I just like mixing things up a bit to help me think in fresh ways. I love the challenge of new stories and new approaches. Maybe that’s what I love the most about the writing process, is it keeps you on your toes.
And this new book is certainly doing that. New territory. Magical. But when the walls and detours start coming, I’m grateful for the tools too.