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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Starting from Scratch

Starting from Scratch

It’s a good thing I’ve been doing all these promotional interviews and guest posts for the launch of The Eighth Day. I’ve been asked to talk about my writing process a lot, and – with the self-assurance of someone whose book just got published – I’ve been blithely telling everyone how awful and torturous and soul-killing my first drafts are. Several people have commented how relieved they are to hear that, since they’re struggling with the same issue.
I’ll bet nobody guesses I’m one of the writers reading those interviews and taking comfort from my own words! Because I recently started from scratch on a brand new project.
And I’m afraid it’s going to suck! I don’t know what I’m doing! Waah!
This is the first time I’ve put words down on a completely new manuscript where I did not already know the main character and his world since April of 2012 when I started writing GRUNSDAY, which became The Eighth Day. And yes, since then I’ve written The Inquisitor’s Mark and the Not-Yet-Officially-Named Book 3 – and yes, I agonized over them for various reasons. But at least I knew Jax and his voice would carry me through.
This main character is a complete stranger to me. I don’t know her voice or her world yet. I have a premise that’s pretty cool (at least I think so), but the plot is merely some “dots” that need to be connected.
I’ve said many times that my plot and characters develop on the page as I write them. Only when I’m finished the first draft do I realize what the story was supposed to be about all along.
Now, starting from scratch with something new, I just need to believe my own words!
I’ll be here on Friday for First Impressions with a page from Pk Hrezo’s sequel to Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc. I took a break from First Impressions in April because my partner-in-crime Marcy was doing A to Z, but I am glad to have this feature return in May. I missed it!

14 Responses to Starting from Scratch

  1. I think the best stories happen when the plot and characters develop along with the story. I read an interview once with John Grisham and he said that’s how he does it too.

  2. When this happens to me, I have a talk with my character to get to know him/her better. I sound like I’m crazy talking to myself, but it works. 😉 Good luck!

  3. This happens every time I start something new. I find, as suggested above, that if I just write, the voice of the characters develops. The further along I go, the more the characters (and the story) reveal of themselves and their journey.

    Best of luck to you!

  4. Robin says:

    It makes ME feel better that YOU have a difficult time with that first draft. That your first draft is terrible and needs revision. That you only find the “story” after you have done that first draft. It gives ME hope. Thank YOU.

  5. Tiana Smith says:

    Good luck with the new project! The first chapter is pretty tricky for me, but after that I usually have a good handle on the voice, and that really does a lot!

  6. I feel like the best stories are the ones I have to peel back layer by layer. Sure would be nice if it was easier though.

  7. J E Oneil says:

    The thing you forget when you’re in another level of writing/editing is how the other levels are just as hard. But since I’m in the first draft, yes, it’s definitely harder than all the rest 🙂

  8. DMS says:

    Hopefully your MC will start talking to you a bit more and she will let you know who she is and what she is about. 🙂 Wishing you the best of luck!

  9. T. Drecker says:

    I hear you! I’d rather edit and revise than write that 1st draft. Even with all the ideas there, it feels like an unending battle. My latest MS has been getting some attention, and I’m already scared how I’ll ever get another MS that far. And I’m not even talking about the publishing level yet. Tell me how you defeat this one, when you get through. . .please.

  10. Beate says:

    Isn’t this usually the best way to do things so they turn out perfectly – not to have them perfectly planned in the beginning? 🙂 For me it’s like that: whenever I let things just come to me with time, let them develeop and grow that’s usually when it’s the best, not when I’m stressing over wanting to know everything right away. I’m sure this book is going to be awesome! 🙂

  11. Tonja says:

    I’m confident it will turn out to be fabulous!

  12. I’m always intimidated to start writing from scratch on the computer. Usually I have to put a few ideas down on paper before I feel comfortable enough opening a new Word document.

  13. Hi Dianne .. congratulations on being brave enough to tackle new characters and new dimensions … they’ll come as life flutters by .. enjoy – cheers Hilary

  14. Catching up here on all your great posts – and the ups and downs of the publishing world! So proud of you and I can’t wait to get my hands on The Eighth Day. I love that you get right to work on the next one! Bravo. I hope you have some good down time this summer…