Sunday, November 15, 2015

Starting a Story, the Process

I'm not sure how others start a story, whether it's a short story, a novel, or a saga. Different
Dragon's Head, Bjorn Baklien, Flickr
ways, I suppose.

I know from my experience that I tend to start writing, whether with some outline or notes or not, and then I rewrite the beginning over and over until it feels right.

I've got this sense of the story, this feeling, and somehow I have to manage the words so that they flow in accord with that feeling. That sounds kind of mysterious, and maybe it is, I don't know. I do know that there's a point when I feel (that word, again!) that the tone created by word choice is what I want. Then I just blaze away, getting the piece written one time through.

Then comes the fun part--and I mean that. I get to rewrite. That's like cleaning the window. The first part, the beginning, is like busting a hole in the wall and installing the window. OK, the window's in, but all that dust and fingerprints and sales stickers . . . clean that off, make it disappear!

What remains is the view, and a wonderful one, I hope.

Right now I'm working on a short story, a fantasy set in the same reality as my novel The Stone Dragon. The story takes place on Half Street, an area on a hill above Oldtown, the hill spined with rocks called Dragon's Head. I've rewritten the beginning three or four times. I think now maybe the tone of the beginning is what I want, what I need.

Who knows, though? I guess I should know, but I'm going to have to let some time pass before I'm sure. I can keep pecking away at the story, though, in the meantime.
To be alone on Half Street was not easy, even for a boy of ten familiar with its nooks and crannies. Too many guildspeople hurried the pathways, shouldering tools or cloth samples or even newly tooled shoes, as Cobb's father would. Too many wagons or barrows stirred dust or mud or dirty snow, depending on the season, for someone always needed a chimney cleaned, a door squared, a cracked tile replaced. Someone always needed a son to deliver a pair of evenngi slippers to an impatient lady, or a boy to feed the fire beneath the dye pot.
 That's the current beginning of the short story that's had the following titles: "A Dragon's Scale," "Dragon Dreams," and "Magic Comes to Half Street."

Now I feel I can write Cobb's story. I've managed to break through the best wall for the right view.

As for Cobb? Right now he's at Dragon's Head:
An odd place it was, a knob of stone still shaped by wild, what the builders and masons should have considered a challenge or an affront" . . . but the stones have not been cleared, "apparently never occurred to some greedy guildsman or ambitious matron of the crafts. Leave Dragon's Head alone, and it will leave you alone, Cobb thought, and he didn't even consider the oddity of the thought. How and why would a tangle of rock at the crest of a hill leave you alone?
What fun!


  1. I agonize over the opening, too, but only to a point. Then. once the entire story is written I go back and hine that opening again.

  2. It's not so much agony for me (although it could be). It's just part of my creative process, a sort of creative perseverance. I like your word "hone."