I’ve been outlining my next project, something I’ve been thinking about and toying with in my head for a good while now. No details yet, sorry–this is the stage of the story where it’s just me. Well, me and my writing group, because brainstorming.
So as I start to get ideas down on paper and develop them, I’m reminded yet again what I planner I am when it comes to writing. I can tell because the more I write about character profiles, species notes, setting details, plot points, and theme, the calmer I feel. I know what my major characters look like, what their quirks, weaknesses and strengths are. I know that one of them carries around a small gold chain. When I realized why, I got goosebumps because I knew it fit perfectly. The story is coming together in my head, the pieces falling into place.
All these details, including sections with each character’s goal, motivation and conflict, and eventually even the chapter outline, are handwritten in one of my journals. That’s how I work. When I do school visits, I bring samples from these journals to show the kids where my stories begin. And sometimes the kids show me their notebooks where they write down their own stories or important thoughts. And if I’m very lucky, one or two will come over to me after a signing, lean in and whisper, “I want to be a writer too.” The whispers make me wonder if they’ve ever said the words out loud before. Maybe they’re afraid of what people will think. It’s a gesture of trust, and I love making these connections. I love showing students that their writing journey is not so very different from mine. All stories have to begin somewhere, whether you work from a detailed outline, scribble in a notebook, or just let the words and the story flow. And sometimes, maybe you need to say the words, “I want to be a writer,” and make your desire known.
Everyone needs a place to start.