What I learned:
I think the reason people fail when it comes to writing is that they fail to plan. My Uncle Mark (who is in the Navy and known by others as Tim) has a sign in his office that says, "A failure to plan is a plan to fail." All of my previous writings involved little to no planning; I was the puppet master making crazy, unrealistic things happen with my characters. The first step in Starless Sky was changing that. Looking back on it, I was organized with Starless. I had everything planned but not to the extent that I do now; I write with notebooks upon notebooks of character and plot notes.
Plan. What do I mean by plan? You can't tell a story if you don't know it. You have to play around with ideas inside your head and get to know your characters and their personalities. What would they say? What would they wear? Who would they hang out with and why? The more real the world is inside your head, the better it transmits to paper.
One of the most important things I learned while writing Starless was that it's important to build the story based from the story. It has to be cohesive and cadent. I really didn't have much of a plan or a plot for the first chapter but that was okay as long as I starting building from there. When Kahlen first met Kennley at the creek, I had to ask myself who I wanted Kennley to be as a character. I wanted him to be a bad boy, but he seemed too nice for that. Okay. But why? Why would a bad boy seem good? Well maybe he used to be bad but now he's not anymore. Well what changed? Hm, I don't know. And since I don't know, I won't let the audience know either. For now, let's just make him…a mystery:
"My thoughts were all distracted when I saw Kennley speed walking across the street and dodging cars while he was talking on his cell phone. He looked like he was unusually angry. Although I didn't know what his usual behavior was, he seemed much too friendly and jovial to have a look like that on his face. He screamed something I couldn't hear— partly because my window was up— before he slammed the phone shut, and took off in a fully fledged sprint down the street. I pushed aside my curiosity, turned the key in the ignition, and pulled off down the street to the closest McDonald's. "
I built from that and kept building and building and finding answers to my own questions and began to develop his character more and more.
Another thing I learned while writing Starless is that backspace (on the keyboard), aka, delete, can be your best friend. It's important to be critical of your writing. There have been times when I've written a whole chapter and then decided I must have lost my mind and deleted the whole thing. It is important to read over your work to catch mistakes like taking your story in a direction you shouldn't. I recommend reading over your writing after a day or two so your brain can be fresh and you can easier look at your work from the reader's perspective. When I've finished the whole book, I go back and read it as a whole, tweaking here and there to make sure the dialogue and character's actions are realistic.
Honestly, I don't think my journey through Starless would have been much of a journey at all without God's help. The months that I spent writing, I had the same prayer on my lips, "God, if you bless this book, I'll dedicate it to you."
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