When it comes to storytelling, I like to think of a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: ‘”Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”’
This approach to storytelling, however, doesn’t describe my writing process. Most of the time, it’s a little spark of a concept, a bit of dialogue, or an irresistible image that gets my fingers flying over the keyboard. If I can’t get the image or the idea out of my head, I know there’s more I need to do with it.
Once I have a handle on that tiny scrap of an idea, I can start working with it, tumbling it around in my head or on paper, drawing out the threads of the story. The characters, the setting, the plot—everything emerges from that one bright spot of inspiration.
I suppose my writing has always started with a spark—something that ignites the story and gives it the energy to move forward. Rarely does that spark kick the story off—and it’s hardly ever perfect. Sometimes it doesn’t even make it past the second edit. Its job is to act as the catalyst that gets me moving forward on the story.
American children’s book writer Beverly Cleary said it best: “I don’t necessarily start with the beginning of the book. I just start with the part of the story that’s most vivid in my imagination and work backward and forward from there.”
What about you? Does a spark ignite your writing? Or is your approach more planned and methodical?