These textures are inspiring all my senses today. What sensations do they invoke in you?
Over the weekend I found this simple writing challenge called the Lucky Seven Challenge. I came across it on Rachel Poli’s blog here, who stumbled upon it from Skye Hegyes’s blog, who noticed it on Facebook…and so on. Maybe you’ve heard of the challenge and have done it yourself.
As Rachel Poli says,
The point is this:
1. On your current WIP, scroll to page seven.
2. Count seven sentences down.
3. Then share the following seven sentences after that.
Here are my seven little sentences for the challenge, taken from an old, incomplete, untitled manuscript of mine:
She locked the door behind her.
Through the entrance foyer she walked, glancing into the sitting room on her right as she passed. Empty. No one was yet awake. If that was any sign, and she was lucky, no one had noticed her absence. Nevertheless, Eileen’s stomach tingled. She might be able to explain away—lie about—her disappearance as work for the festival, but she’d prefer to say nothing at all.
What strikes me about this challenge is how remarkably well the passages read as openings (check out Rachel’s post for more examples). The passages are of course taken mid-action and without context. Readers don’t know who the characters are, what they are doing and why, and what meaning or significance anything in the narrative might have.
And that’s the beauty of it. Because, as a result, readers are thrown into a story that is already happening with characters who are already acting and developing. The story truly begins in medias res. Rather than a contrived beginning that the author crafts with deliberation, this in medias res just is.
One of my fiction professors said that writers write beginnings for themselves. Those first few sentences, pages, or chapters are for our benefit. The beginning is where we tell ourselves what the story is about. The beginning gives us courage to start our writing adventure and signals the direction we should take. The beginning is for our eyes only.
Once the adventure is complete, we should axe it and replace it with a beginning for the readers.
Rachel Poli suggests using others’ challenge submissions as writing prompts. I suggest using your own: as the new beginning to the same story you used for the challenge. Can you do it?
A couple of weeks ago I promised myself I would start writing fiction again. I also acknowledged that, not having written fiction for a few years, whatever I write will be crap. I have to push through the pain (of poor writing) before I can dredge up anything worthwhile. Getting back into writing after a long absence is difficult and intimidating, so I’m giving myself as much leeway as I can.
However, I have yet to slap some words on a page. I’m too busy thinking, thinking.
Thinking about my old short stories that I could lengthen into novels. Thinking about those half-baked novel concepts that could use more time in the oven. Thinking about the several completed story concepts that could be transformed into novels. Thinking about my novel-length manuscript draft that needs an overhauling rewrite. Thinking about new ideas.
“You think too much,” friends, family, co-workers, boyfriends all have told me. I am an INTJ, after all.
But thinking is…fun! I am a world builder. The unique and fascinating settings and other-worlds of speculative fiction are one of the characteristics I love most about the genre. Imagining places with physical, political, social, and economical environments vastly different from my own—and from those on Earth—delights my curiosity like nothing else. Maybe it’s the social anthropologist in me getting twisted and coiled up with my creative writer self.
I think I enjoy building worlds and story concepts more than I do writing. I can sit down at any time and hash out the plot, characters, and setting for a story with ease. I will lose hours in imagining and developing story concepts. With some good background music playing, I am one contended writer.
Sitting down to write that story, though? I have to work myself up to it. I end up staring at my electric blue wall behind my laptop screen, or out the window to the side paneling on my neighbour’s house, or simply at the harsh white of my blank Word document for no less than an hour. Trying to write and trying to make a story out of the concept I was so excited about is torturous.
Why can I spend an afternoon in bliss whizzing up story concepts and yet waste away the evening in misery trying to write? Fear of commitment, perhaps? As soon as I begin writing a story, I am committed to it. I have to write it until it is finished. Whether the end product is good or not, I must continue writing the story until it is done.
And that’s a big commitment. All those ideas and brainstormed story concepts I have are for full-length novels. I don’t do short stories. So when I commit to a story, I’m committing to a three-hundred page, one hundred thousand word, two- or three-month (or longer) project. I’m not counting second or third or tenth drafts, either.
The commitment to write is scary. What if the idea isn’t all that good in the end? What if it’s not as original as I had thought? What if it’s not worth writing about? What if I can’t do it justice?
Every writer faces these fears and self-defeating doubts. My way of dealing with them is to avoid commitment and find refuge in my ideas. Procrastination. Thinking thinking, always planning that next big story, but never writing that next big novel. I have too many ideas and too little courage.
Maybe if I can get myself excited enough about one of my ideas this week, I can start writing. I know that once I dip my fingers a story, I won’t be able to let go.
Those first few words are always the hardest.
Welcome to the revised, reissued, reprinted Speculosity. Two years have passed since Speculosity first launched (!), meaning that now is the time for a revitalized design. As with most book reprints, Speculosity’s changes are largely cosmetic.
With this new layout, you can scroll through my latest posts without having to leave the front page. Although the featured posts are gone, you can still find my older posts through the menu. In addition, I have grouped all past content I no longer blog about (looking at you, League) under The Library. You will find an index of my book reviews for easier navigation, as well.
Please have a click or two around and let me know what you think.
–Oopsies! I published this post too early by accident (darn those 24-hour clocks). My apologies for the confusion.–