I have four or five story ideas that are in various stages of being fleshed out and written. They range from the novel (?) I’m currently working on the third draft of to ideas that I’m still trying to develop the arcs for.
Most of these ideas have come to me around 10:00 pm as I’m lying in bed succeeding spectacularly at not sleeping. A stray thought will occur to me, maybe influenced by something I’ve heard or read recently, and I’ll find there’s a thread there for me to grab on to. I’ll start to fumble around with it, turn it around in my fingers and look at it somewhat obsessively.
There are ideas I’ve been mulling for months that I still haven’t committed in any way to paper, or its digital equivalent. I’m still sitting there reminding myself of the premise, asking who the characters are, what the story I want to tell is and how I want to structure that story.
While the details and the actual execution elude me for time being, I can kind of see the whole thing and have a clear idea of how it will turn out. It’s like looking at a mountain range from 20 miles away, able to see the entire length and height of the entire expanse but am too far to see the trees and paths that truly make it what it is.
I’ll get there eventually, but the starting is the hardest part. This isn’t something unique to me or any great insight I’m offering into the writing process. If you polled 10 writers you’d have 12 respond that yes, the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph are often the most imposing. It’s our initial offering, the lead pitch to the audience that has to hook them. We need to avoid cliches, be engaging and encapsulate the story while still promising more.
Eventually (hopefully some time soon) I’ll get these ideas at least outlined. I might start writing the first chapter and see where it goes from there.
For now I’m still spending most nights in bed thinking of what that first line is, the one that feels organic and establishes the momentum for both for myself and the eventual reader to continue down the path and finish the story.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.