Step 1: Stare at the Blinking Cursor Until the Muse Visits by Patty Blount

 You know, starting a story is actually my favorite part of writing. 

I am that rare breed of person who finds inspiration in a blank page and a blinking cursor. My problem isn't starting the story, it's starting the entire process. 

What's the difference? 

Take a minute to read Berek's incredible post called MANY LEVELS, TONTO. MANY LEVELS. In it, he describes how his writer's brain collects random bits and pieces of interesting trivia -- be they in the form of images, scribblings on mens' room walls, or even phrases -- and eventually either knits them into stories or they become the seeds from which stories grow. 

That's the beginning of the process. 

And that's the part I struggle with the most. 

If you've been following this blog, you know me by now. You know I suffer from an idea desert. Other writers have binders full of ideas and no time to write them all. I have no such binder. I write the idea I have and then flounder about for the next one. 

(You may have noticed I haven't released a YA novel since 2018?)

So, I have to do some extra work here. I have to consciously look for those random and interesting bits Berek collects. I give myself homework. I scour the internet for interesting news. I read this article once about 6 years ago, in which a homeowner remodeling their house unearthed skeletal remains in their basement that were eventually identified as the homeowner's grandfather, believed to have run off with a mistress back in the 80's. Seems like Pops was the victim of murder, likely by his wife, who died never having been caught. 

This story got me thinking. Imagine growing up in this family, in this house. Did Gran snap at you to get away from that basement door, every time you wandered to close to it? Did she lie about the smell, saying it was probably a cat or a rodent trapped in the walls? How did she do it? Why did she do it? 

Before long, I realized I had not just an idea but a whole story. And then, the story became a whole series. I found more articles online about the odd things construction workers find hidden in the walls of homes they're remodeling. 

So I thought, "What about an architect or a carpenter whose business is to restore grand old houses to their former glory, who keeps finding mysteries at every project? And what if instead of investigating those mysteries himself, he laments the lost time and income while his girlfriend /wife does the actual investigating, often against his will? 

Lots of opportunity for tension and conflict...

That's how my Pequot Point series was born. Book 1, DON'T BELIEVE A WORD, is about how Angela and Roen meet, after she hires him to remodel the house she just inherited from her grandmother. Neither is aware that Grandpa's remains are walled up behind the bricks in her cellar until Roen knocks down a wall to upgrade the plumbing. 

Stories don't start with the blinking cursor or the blank page. They start when authors are either struck by something interesting, like my friend Berek, or do the homework to cultivate something taken right out of today's news to turn into something interesting, as I find I must. 

If you want to be a writer, take a closer look at the world around you and start your own collection of random trivia. Happy writing!