Starting in the Middle

I’ve been surprised over the past few weeks how this project is coming together, kind of piecemeal, not all orderly like I approach most of my life.  I am a list maker, an outliner, a planner.  My kids tease me that “Mom, it’s okay not to ‘have a plan’ for the day,” assuring me that it’ll be “alright.”  Really, it’s that bad sometimes.

When I started this novel adventure, I approached it how I usually approach a writing project.  I gathered all my resources; I researched, read, and took notes; I outlined and plotted; I developed characters.  And then, I thought I would start at the beginning.  That’s where I’ve always started every paper, essay, my Master’s thesis etc. – the beginning.  It seems like the logical place to start.  Apparently not.

Either I’m starting to let go and listen to my creative self a little bit better, or I just approach fiction a little differently, or at least a long fiction project, than I do non-fiction projects.  The short stories I have written I have started at the beginning and worked through until the end, but for my novel, I have random scenes written throughout.  I work on whatever I feel like.  If inspiration hits, I write that part.  It’s been so fun – who knew?

The other day I was reading a stack of 9th grade papers.  My students wrote them as a culmination of a fun end of the year Writer’s Workshop unit in which we studied “using punctuation in interesting ways to create voice.”  “How do authors use dashes, ellipses, fragments etc?  What do they achieve when they use them?” were the questions we asked as we read quite a few mentor texts, and they wrote practice pieces.  They could write their final piece on any topic; they enjoyed this assignment.  How do I know?  The final papers were super fun to read; they got it, the whole idea that language is fun and they can play with it to achieve an emotion or a mood in their writing.  As I was reading, twice I read lines that made me think of my story.  I had to stop right there, grab a piece of paper and write segments of scenes.  When I got home that night, I expanded them, and I still like them.

My muse is a funny thing.  I have no idea when inspiration will strike or what it will inspire.  However, I think my planning (or over-planning according to my kids) has been helpful because now when inspiration does strike, I have a good idea of where that piece will fit in the larger picture, but it’s certainly not exact.  I’m trying really hard to just go with it.  To let go, to allow this process to teach me whatever I need to know about how I work and the best way for me to work.   This is new territory for me, to work organically and not in a completely linear fashion.  But, overall, I think I like starting in the middle.  Now, if I could just think of a really great first line, life would be great.

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6 thoughts on “Starting in the Middle

  1. I’d love to hear more about using punctuation to create voice. Any tips or samples you have to share will be appreciated!

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    1. Hi Debra. I didn’t respond to this right away because I was thinking I would probably do a blog on this, but since I haven’t yet, I’ll fill you in. Basically, we talked about dashes, ellipses, italics, parenthesis, colons, fragments, run-ons and some others. I’ve had ONE day of summer vacation and I can’t think of the rest of them! Anyway, I give the kids a variety of texts to read and highlight all usages of interesting usages of punctuation. As they find them, they have to answer the questions: why did the author use this? what does it achieve? ie. what emotional effect does it have on the reader? You can do this yourself too. If you look at anything by Stephen King, humor writers such as David Sedaris or Dave Barry, or really any piece of creative “voice-y” fiction, you’ll get what I’m talking about. After studying these strategies, the kids then have to write pieces using them. It’s also fun for us, as writers, to play with them too, and I think it can add a lot to writing as long as its not overdone. Quite a few young adult novels use these strategies because its how teens think and talk. Adults do too but its not so obvious.

      I keep thinking of examples to share with you, but I think I’ll just write this up in a blog entry in the next few weeks. In the meantime, as you’re reading, note interesting or even “incorrect” sentences and think about what they achieve or why the author chose that strategy. Hope that helps! Thanks for your comment.

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      1. Amy I am so new to the blogging world, I just now figured out how to read your response from last week. WOW…super info! Thanks for the educational tips and posing those questions for me to ponder.

        PS – I enjoyed a great giggle when I read your post today. I’m already a senior babe who sometimes indulges in bling LOL

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      2. I’m glad I was able to answer your questions and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s brought smiles to my teams’ faces as it’s been an ongoing joke all week!

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