Starting a novel

Begin a novel

Where or at what point will the story begin? Where do you start? It can be an intimidating prospect to write a novel. It can be a lonely business to write a novel. And it can be quite overwhelming if you do it without instruction, input or support.

Beginning his novel by David Gordon

My slogan for my work is" whatever brings me to the next page", but the first page is often the most difficult. Took me years to write my first volume. Tormenting and hesitating, incubating and fighting until I eventually, out of complete despair, began to write, first in the typing machine and then on an old hand typewriter: the unease of non-writing had passed the unease of typing, so I typed.

What I am doing now and suggesting to others is a kind of straightforward structure. Usually, however, I think the easy old outline technique we learnt in high schools is good, especially in a text editing tool where you can easily move and insert elements. Principle is very simple:

I' m just listing everything I know or think I know about the work, in large terms, whether it's about big action dates ("the wedding", "they go to Sri Lanka", "bank robbery") or character (most of them are called at this point X, Y or "other type"), or simply about general areas and topics to be researched ("Mars", "organ transplantation", "old Rome").

Then, under each headline, I put in everything I can or subhead it as needed, and I use it to make games, extend it, write on it, and then I write on it, put it in my bag or put it on the walls until I can't take it and start to write again.

I often totally disregard the outlines. I' m often thinking of typing as one way of resolving the problems in which I am the one. So, being stranded in one's own mind and trying to think of a way out is crazy. Contouring is a first stage to put all these things on some kind of sheet of paper, sculpture or chalk.

Imagine the sketch as a timetable or even as a rough route for a journey through the state. Just as an artiste or draughtsman begins to sketch, or a musician sits at the pianoforte or grabs a guitars and strikes a few accords, a piece I can actually work on makes a room for my fantasy to build this new, unfamiliar thing, a work.

And now that the idea has a place to go, I have more of it. I' ve thought of dialogues, even those pictures that I just feel should be somewhere inside, and found out that they ended up in the final novel years later. Thoughts brood among themselves: one sees compounds develop, or it simply seems to be more like a novel, if one opens the contour and pays attention to it after a good one.

It is the key point against sketching that it prevents you from discovering unfamiliar treasure along the way, stumbles upon the surprising and discovering things that make it so exciting to write and read. There was a good cause why I couldn't find it: I don't often keep track of my brief. I' m planning and drawing until I'm ready to go again, and then I drop the silhouette and drive.... until I get lost or collapse when I go back and re-rest... again and again.

It is a utility, use it or reject it.

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