“What do you want to write about?” I brought a plate of cookies to the living room along with a cup of hot cocoa and a cup of milk.
“I don’t know.” Ben took the cocoa from me as I set the plate down. I had a bad moment as the other cup tried to slide off my finger, but managed to escape spill free.
“It’s going to be kind of hard to write a book if you don’t know what it’s about. Not impossible, but not much fun, if you’re like me.”
“You’ve done that?”
“Well. Kind of. Some books I already know a lot about before I start to write them. For instance, for The Rancher’s Heart, I had a complete outline done before I began the first word. It was a short book, but I’m sure the outline is why I got through the rough draft so quickly. Fourteen days from beginning to end. Unluckily I had some nagging issues with characterization and pacing, and it was rejected out of a limited market on the query, but that wasn’t the outline’s fault.”
“Huh.” I must have used too many technical terms because his eyes were glazing.
“For me, different books work different ways. I have a friend who has published many Harlequin Romance novels who can’t outline. She says once she’s done so, she no longer has any interest in actually writing the book. I know others who generate up to forty pages of outline before they start to write.”
“What’s the least amount you’ve ever started with?” He put the plate of cookies on a side table untouched. “Or what do you usually start with?”
“Hmm… Well, generally a book starts with a scene for me. Sometimes I try to write the book with only that to go on. Other times I’ll work out exactly what the characters are like and what the situation is all about, and what the setting is like before I start. I hardly ever wait until I’ve got the outline completely detailed. Even when I do, I’ll probably break free from the outline as soon as I start writing it.”
“Well, how do you know when to start?”
“When I can hear the dialogue clearly and am afraid if I don’t get it down I’ll lose something, then I generally start writing. I frequently have the first scene of the book written, then stop and work on the outline, then go back to working on the book.”
“Huh.” Ben nodded, but looked a little slack-jawed.
“Every writer has a different process. What do you do when you write a short story?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I just write it.” He took a cookie off his plate.
“So you already know what the whole story is about when you first start?”
“Kind of. But I can’t do that with a whole book. Right?”
“Because you can’t keep the whole thing in your head at once?” I grabbed a cookie for myself.
“You might be able to get the same kind of feel for how an entire book will go, at least long enough to put it in an outline.”
I didn’t look enthusiastic.
“I get the feeling you don’t really want to write a book so much as to be able to say you had in idle chit chat.” I smiled. “I understand. I was a coffee house writer for a long time. I loved talking about books I was going to write and stories I had written, but actually doing it didn’t have much appeal.”
“No, I’m not like that. I’m just trying to figure out how to start.”
“You know, I have an idea. A lot of the stories you’ve brought to me feature the people who live at your place. Why don’t you take all of them and see if they might fit into some kind of order. It might turn out that you have actually already written a book through the short stories.”
“What? No.” Ben wrinkled his nose. “I want to write a real book.”
“I’m not talking about an anthology. I’m talking about something like some of the old time Science Fiction authors have done. They write stories in the same world, then put the stories together and it turns out they all fit into one big story. It’s not so different from writing a book from beginning to end because books are made of scenes the same way the stories are. You might have to revise to get rid of some choppiness, but so what? Unless you want to just take the plunge, it would be a good way to go.”
Ben ate his cookie while he listened. He finished with a sip of cocoa before responding.
“No offense, Mrs. Audrey, but I think I’d rather just take the plunge.”
Oh well. It’s not like he couldn’t do my idea later, if he felt like it.
If you enjoy Suzie’s House and would like to see more, please leave a comment. Suzie’s House is powered by its readers.