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First Step


There's a bakery I pass occasionally with a sign in the window that reads: YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE. As marketing approaches go, it's brilliant because, of course, I do want one — actually, I want two or three. And the recognition of this makes me want one even more. So I stand across the street and have this war within myself. Do I cross over — and it doesn't work to tell myself, I'm just going to look in the window. If I get close to the window, there's no turning back. There are often several women across the street looking at this window, too. The lure of it is like a clarion call — come closer, you know you want one.

I wonder how I would react if the sign read:  YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO EXERCISE. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO GET UP EARLY. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO READ MORE; TAKE A CLASS; KEEP YOUR OFFICE NEAT; PUSH THROUGH YOUR FIRST DRAFT, BLOG DAILY (OR ALMOST DAILY); GET TO KNOW THAT NEIGHBOR ACROSS THE STREET; VOLUNTEER; GO ON A TRIP WITH FRIENDS; STOP COMPLAINING FOR ONE WEEK; START BELIEVING IN YOUR AUDACIOUS DREAMS.  

Sometimes dreams, especially the big ones, can be so hard to embrace. Who are we, anyway, to think we could ____. But, I have a short test to determine if a big dream is genuine. Have you had it for years? Do you keep giving it up and it keeps reappearing like a cupcake in a bakery window? Would your dream hurt anyone? If so, think again. Would it use your gifts? What's the first step you can take to test it?  

Okay, take that first step.

2 responses to “First Step

  1. Joan, I just read Hope Was Here because I’m slowly reading thru all the Newbery award and honor books. (Can you think of a better assignment? I’m loving it.) What a delightful book you’ve written; what resilient light-beam characters Hope, Addie, G.T, and Braverman are. Here’s my first step: asking someone who knows! Have you written any blog posts on how you pre-plan the plot chronology for a novel this length, so that the characters exhibit the traits/needs/problems at the beginning that will be resolved at the end? I’m new to fiction writing, though I’m in my 60s; I want to create a plot blueprint for my middle-years novel in the smartest way possible; I don’t have years to practice and experiment; I’m hoping to get it right, first time out the chute. Great expectations!

  2. Thanks for the nice comments about HOPE — Im happy to be your first step. As far as plot chronology, I always do character development first — once I get down who the character is, where theyre from, what their wants look like, their dreams, nightmares, etc., in addition to sketching out the important people in their lives — then I approach plot development. I think about what big moments might be in the story, think about the transitions, the surprises in addition to where the story needs to begin and end.Ive learned that in my writing at least, the seeds of the end are always in the beginning, so look for that connection.Every main character has to have an arc of growth, so they cant start one way and stay that way through the novel, unless, say, theyre James Bond who is always the same. I identify what is my characters driving want/goal in the story, then I think about how difficult I can make it for him or her to achieve that. That structure provides the bones of the book and then its up to me to fill in the holes. You have to leave clues for the reader to keep them interested. I go back over my notes on the characters because the more deeply they live in my heart, the truer the story will be. But, I must say that Ive found writing fiction to not be a straight line at all, but a circuitous path where I head off down the road, backtrack, get lost, take some surprising turns, run out of gas, but eventually end up at my destination. Hope this helps, Esther.
    Joan

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