Getting Your Caravan in Order
Butt in Chair. Work up to more time, each day. Work up to a ritual. That’s all, really, you need to know about writing.
Heather Sellers, Page after Page, 2005.
Habits & Routines and Time to Write
Beginning at the beginning is a very fine place to start – or is it? Julie Andrews may have started with ABC and do-ray-me and it was such a romantic place to start – but let me assure, it’s a damned hard place to start. Think scrabble words – it’s not until you muck your letters up a little, rearrange them on the rack, play with them, that they begin to shape into a meaningful word – and so it will be with your story.
You need something to work with and that something is ideas, an ideas folder, an ideas manifesto, an ideas box from which to draw inspiration once the initial frenzy of writing dies down, as it surely will. Remember nano-write? I’ve got a theory that people don’t sit down on the 1st of November and think, gee, I’ll write a story. I think they go into training, set up a game plan, then work toward the big start date. Ready, set, nano-write. Prior planning prevents poor performance and all that.
The first question is, what is a story anyway? Your story? You know what you like to read – I hope you read, don’t you? You know the kind of style the books you read are written in – first person, third person, unreliable narrator – sorry, we’ll get technical later – let’s just say that if you read then you’ll most likely know how a story works.
And if you haven’t guessed already, the beginning is a bad place to start. When we run into someone we know out on the road and the conversation goes something like, what have you been up to since we last saw you – you don’t bore them with every little detail. Most likely it will be something recent or momentous or both that sees you telling your old mates about the wedge tailed eagle that came to lunch or the marauding pelican that stole the coral trout right out of your boat.
You will tell the exciting bits, not the bits about getting petrol at Halls Creek on the way to the Gibb River – unless of course you happened to be mugged by a fierce snake on a Bungle Bungle. On the other hand, some stories are just too good to make up but resist – but resist you must – the truth is never a good story because you feel you have to stick to the facts and listed in order they get boring or worse, tedious.