January 15th, 2007
The Blinking Cursor

I’m sitting here looking at a blank page and a blinking cursor, wondering what to blog about. Cats? Been there, done that (often). Characters? Done that too. The lure of the vampire, werewolf and other supernatural folk? Been blogged about by many, including myself.

But I could talk about the blinking cursor and the blank page. That perfect nothingness every writer faces when it’s time to start a new project…with that annoying cursor that seems to be thumbing its nose at you if you’re not drawing any ideas. Writing really is like making something from nothing, or, rather, maybe it’s more like pulling a lump from the innermost quagmire of the author’s mind and then shaping it into something recognizable. Sculpting, weaving, those are the analogies I use most when thinking about writing.

I always start with a character—a man or a woman who has a certain personality. I want to see how they react when they’re thrown into certain circumstances. What decisions do they make? How do they react? How do those decisions and reactions drive the plot? I always use the example of Angelo from Water Crystal. That book started with him. I wanted to write about an honorable man who worked for a true villain. That concept intrigued me and I wanted to explore it further, thus, Water Crystal was born.

Normally when I’m confronted with the blinking cursor and a new project, I’ll write a few lines about the character I’m mulling and what I circumstances I want to throw him or her into. Then (usually) I’ll start out by putting him or her in danger or in some high-tension situation. Sometimes I keep that beginning, sometimes not. It’s important I write it in order to get a better feel for his/her personality. That’s really the purpose.

Then I’ll sit down and start to figure out their character more in depth. Sometimes I find out more about him or her–him AND her by this point, since I write romance—than I’ll ever need for the book. This is just more exploratory stuff for my own benefit. (Do you doubt I had an imaginary friend when I was a kid? *g*).

After I’m satisfied with that progress, I’ll plot. I used to be a pantser (a writer who writes without plotting, by the “seat of her pants”), but little by little, book-by-book, I’ve found that I prefer to plot first. I always leave some wiggle room, though, in case I have to take an unexpected turn down the writing road.

That’s usually how it goes for me. Sometimes I get a flash of a scene and everything flows directly from there, the plot growing organically (I did that with Edge of Sweetness). I don’t think that one way is better than another way. Whatever ways works best for the author is golden.

If you’re a writer, how do you deal with the blinking cursor, a blank page and a new project?

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