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Finding the Open Door

Posted by Priscilla on February 18, 2013

Rarely does a writer see the plan and the path of his book before he starts. Has it ever happened? So many would-be-writers complain, “But where do I start?” Or they say, “I have so many ideas --which one do I work on?” Since “writing is rewriting,” and since most writers toss out much of what they write, I’m here to say:  it does not matter.

It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you sit down, put your pen to paper, and produce something that didn’t exist an hour before. Once those first words are on paper, no matter what they are, a door will open somewhere. The door may be behind just one sentence, one phrase, or even the one word that captures your imagination. You will look at that word (or phrase or sentence) and think, How did I know that? From where did that thought come? If you banish the questions from your mind and step through the door that has opened, you will find that the scenes begin to unfold and that the story begins to form.

The one phrase that blew the door off the hinges for me was “I want to hide me.” Wow. And suddenly, I understood Miriam, the protagonist of my second WIP, Rendition.

Are you stuck at the beginning? Have you run out of ways to move the story forward? Back away from your book and all its action. Sit down and write a letter to your character. Ask him or her:  what story do you want to tell? Why it that important to you? Write down your character’s answer as fast as you can. You are not writing the novel at the character’s dictation. You are writing the blood in the novel’s veins, the steel rods in its walls. It is possible no one else will ever read what you write at these times, but the story you tell will grow around the writing. The story will come to life because you are following open doors.


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