Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Promise of a New Beginning...

By Robin Kaye



When I was a kid, I did a lot of skiing—my family had a place in Sun Valley, Idaho and we’d usually spend three weeks a year there skiing. Like most other skiers, every night before I went to bed wearing my pajamas inside out and backward—a signal to the snow gods that I was ready for fresh powder—I’d pray for snow. I prayed, not only because the skiing on fresh powder would be great, no, I had another reason—I longed to ski virgin snow.

I’d wake up extra early after a snow and arrive on the mountain well before the lifts opened with a backpack full of bribes for the lift operators—warm scones and hot coffee worked the best. They’d be bundled up against the early morning chill, sweeping the snow from the chair lifts and sometimes, if I got very lucky, they’d let me ride up before the mountain officially opened so I could be the first skier down.

There’s nothing like skiing virgin snow—the only sound you hear is the wind whispering through the trees, the swish of your own skies cutting a path through inches or feet of powder, and the blood rushing through your ears. When I think of perfect solitary moments, moments like these are at the top of my list. I’d stop at the bottom of the run, shield my eyes as the sun peeked over the mountain, and see the mark I made—a trail of solitary S turns—before rushing to the lift, hoping to transform the S turns to perfect figure eights.

The beginning of a new year is the same for me. It’s a mountain of virgin snow just waiting for me to make my mark. My only resolution or goal is to do better than I did last year. I’m sure the Goal Nazis are cringing because it’s not concrete or measurable but it works for me. I don’t want to spend so much time measuring my progress that I lose sight of my goal. I stop every three or four months and take a look back, examine my tracks, gauge my progress, and adjust my sights.

For me, starting a book is the same way. I’m not a huge plotter. I usually know my characters—the hero and heroine at least, I have a general idea of the story, for the most part my turning points are mapped out, and I have a counter on my writing program. I know that the first turning point has to happen at around 25,000 words, the point of no return on or about the 50,000-word mark, and the big black moment somewhere around 75,000 words. Other than that, I write by the seat of my pants and see where the words and characters take me. Still, the beginning is the most exciting. It is the clean page, virgin snow—a place to make my mark.

So how do you look at the New Year, or the beginning of a new project? Are you a concrete goal setter, a resolution maker, or are you more like me—just trying to be better than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year? What kind of mark do you want to leave on your mountain?

19 comments:

  1. Great post! It is so hard for me to plot an entire novel. I come up with the plot and usually the beginning, middle, and end. I sit and write, write, write until I'm about 30k into it, then I have to look at the plot and begin plotting by chapters. I know, sounds weird!

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  2. I'm still working out my writing process, but I like to have a good visual of the hero, heroine, villain, and the comic relief. Then, with the beginning and ending fuzzy in my mind, I try to plot a road map for the first third of the story. Once I have my road map, I start plodding (yes, you read that right!) my way through the story.

    Robin, loved your visual of skiing. I've never been and your description almost makes me wish I liked the cold. LOL

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  3. Sounds like we're of a feather so far with this post. My plotting process is also still evolving, but it helps to ask a few key questions: What is the one thing this character would never ever be able to see themselves doing? What is the fundamental change they need to make to be able to live a life based on love rather than safety (nicer term than fear)?

    And as for goals? The goal Nazis gave up on me before I was three years old and had invented my own space station on the planet Jupiter. My goal is to enjoy the writing. It's too important to me to allow anything or anyone to mess with that.

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  4. @ Tonya - your way doesn't sound weird at all. I look at plotting a whole novel and I'm overwhelmed. I know two or three things that will happen, but how I get from one to the next is usually a mystery--but that is what I think gets me going back to my computer every day. If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't be as interested. I pretty much do the same thing. I write a few chapters, put them in Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure and she where I need to go from there. The word count is my marker--it tells me roughly where I am.

    @ Tracey - I hate the cold and ice which is why I ski out west. I used to come home from February break with a better tan then the kids who when to the Bahamas, from the neck up at least. When I was spring skiing, I would ski in shorts and a bikini top--I don't recommend falling, that corn snow is brutal, and use a lot of sun screen. You get kind of weird ski boot tan lines, but it's worth it just to say you skied in a bikini--oh and then you don't have to change when you go hot tubbing...

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  5. As a project-oriented person, I usually have about three immediate goals in sight. They are fuzzy goals because I'm a pantser, too. My characters rise from the fog of my subconscious and we wrestle until we get to the end. My fresh goal for this year is to put the new words first - early morning, fresh powder, before anyone or anything crowds the slopes of my head!

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  6. @ Grace - I think we as writers are constantly evolving. Every book I write teaches me something about plotting, it changes the way I do something or the way I look at my WIP. That's one of the things I love about my job. There's always something to learn. That's one thing I remember about working--I'd go into a new field or job and I loved the learning part of it. After I had that down, I'd grow bored doing the job. In writing--you can never know everything.

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  7. All my life, my goal has been to get to the point where everything is done and I have nothing left to do. Not there yet...,

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  8. Loved your virgin snow story.
    My description of plotting is that I'm the pilot of a big jet airplane loaded with wonderful characters. I know where I'm going, the instruments are set and we are in the air with the first few paragraphs. Then the characters hijack the plane, a cowboy shoots the instrument panel and claims the co-pilot seat and we have the most wonderful adventures.

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  9. Yes it is a great post. Personally I get an idea for a story and I start to work out the details in my mind. Then I sit down at the computer and create the world in which the story takes place and then I start writing. I close my eyes and visualize the scene and I play it in my mind 2 or 3 times (like watching a video clip) before I type it in the computer. I then link these scenes together and smooth out the rough spots. This is just a shortened version of how I write a story.
    I did enjoy your skiing intro. I tried it (skiing) once and wiped out on the bunny slope, so I don't do that any more LOL.
    G W Pickle

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  10. @ Amanda - That's a great goal. Write first. I usually go through my email while drinking my coffee and before I know it it's 10:00 and email is the only thing I've accomplished. I think I'm going to set a time. 20 minutes a few times a day to go through email and that's it.

    @ Cheryl - If there's one thing I've learned is that there's never a time when everything is done--just look at your TBR pile, not to mention laundry and dishes...

    @ Carolyn - Too funny. I love that analogy.

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  11. I look at a new story very much the way you look at your new-laid tracks; plot lines passing back and forth across the page. Except I use the analogy of a braid with many strands making a strong unit.

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  12. @ G W Pickle - everyone wipes out on the Bunny Slope--that's why they make them wide with very few trees. Now there are so many new methods for teaching skiing, I'm sure if you tried it again, with good instruction you'd do better. The first thing I used to teach my students was how to fall. It takes the scariness out of it when you learn to control a fall, then it's all fun.

    I see my books like a movie in my mind. I write the action and dialogue--the the first run down the mountain, then I add movement, inner thoughts, reactions in the second pass of a scene, then I go through it again and smooth it out and do some wordsmithing before moving on to the next scene.

    I'm finding all your responses fascinating--I love hearing how other people write.

    @ Joan - I think of it as braiding too. It's amazing how much adding another layer to the braid strengthens all the strands within it.

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  13. Robin, I felt like I was there with you in the snow.

    I number oned you on Google+

    I write by the seat of my pants, too.

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  14. I'm a lot like you in my approach, Robin. And sometimes I feel like a cat with nine lives that keep starting over and over again from the beginning with similar goals that I always manage to change as I go.

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  15. @ Sandy -Thanks so much for #1ing me on Google +! Skiing is one thing I miss since moving back east. I can't stand the cold, and after spending years skiing out west, I got really spoiled. There are no lift lines, no standing around freezing only to ski down really short runs. There's no such thing as ice out west, whereas to me, skiing in the east is more like ice skating. In Sun Valley, the mountain is so huge, you can spend all day skiing just the top of the mountain and only ski down to the bottom when the mountain closes. You can also follow the sun throughout the day. Most times I'd ski in jeans, a sweater and a powder jacket. Sigh...it was heavenly!

    Alicia - I think goals should be very fluid. Change is a good thing--usually.

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  16. I always, always set goals. I'm not a plotter. but I definitely like to cross things off my list.

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  17. I just try to do my best and not to compare myself to anyone else. That way no matter where I begin, I improve.

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  18. @ Shana--the only list that works for me is the grocery list because I give it to my husband. I write lists and then find I never refer back to them, or I lose them. It's no help. Sigh...

    @ Lil - I totally agree!

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  19. I'm like you, Robin! I write from the seat of my pants. I try to figure out a good way for the hero and heroine to meet and go from there. Their reactions to the situation can't be plotted out. They come naturally for who they are. And yet, the unexpected twists and turns in the story are necessary evils, for them. :) I'd never come up with them if I tried to plot out the story!

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