Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 8, 2011

Moving on to a new Story

Starting a new story is a lot like moving to a new house—a bit of a headache, but very exciting!

When you first start looking, there are so many choices—styles of homes, neighborhoods, amenities. Almost endless. But slowly you whittle down your possibilities to the one that fits you best, the one worth all your time and sweat. The story idea that excites you the most and has the most potential to move your career forward. After all, you will be living with both house and novel for many years to come.

Part of making your choice will be whether or not you can afford it. Can you pay the mortgage comfortably? Will the payoff for months of research and writing be worth it?

If you decide the choice is worth the effort, then the paperwork begins. For the house it’s reams of mortgage and insurance papers. For the book, it’s notebooks (or databases) filled with research, plot outlines, character sketches. Even if you are not a detailed outliner (I’m not), there’s a good amount of pre-thinking to do. Sometimes I will even write a scene or two just to get the flavor before I do any outlining or researching.

Now the house is yours. You own it. The book idea is yours. You own it. Let the unpacking begin!

At the new house, boxes are stacked everywhere. In the new story, “boxes” of information are waiting to be unpacked into the manuscript. In both cases, you have some idea of where everything will go—what room in the house and what major plot point in the story. But then comes those pesky little details. It’s easy enough to put the boxes into the right rooms. But finding a home for every little thing in the boxes can be tricky.

So you slowly sift through the boxes one at a time, uncovering gems, fitting pieces together in new ways, delighting in surprise finds. As you plow through the manuscript, your pieces of information unfold in ways you don’t expect, your characters show you new angles and surprise you with relationships you hadn’t imagined.

Not everything in the boxes will find a home. Some items you’ll pack back up and store in the attic, to be the source of nostalgia and yard sales in the future. Some tantalizing bits of your research will fail to make the cut with your novel, too. Those you can file away for use in the next novel or a short story. They won’t fetch much at a yard sale, though.

Finally, after weeks (months? years?) of toil, you are settled into your house. And your story has that solid feel that tells you it is almost “done.” You will spend time tweaking things, of course—moving a vase from dresser to mantle, changing a word here and there. Polishing, until everything is just the way you want it.

And once that’s done? Well, it’s time to move on—to another story, that is. I don’t intend to move out of my new house anytime in the foreseeable future!

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