I’m psyched! I’m about to write a new book. It will be about… Hmm…what should I write about?
I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible time getting started. Once I actually produce some text, I’ll have another, better idea and I start over. And over. And over. You get the picture.
The only way I’ve been able to cope with this hamster-wheel experience is discipline. Oh, I know that’s an awful word but it works. However, (isn’t there always a ‘however?’) I have to know where I’m going. For me, that requires a lot of walking around the block or on the treadmill. It also takes faith – faith in my ideas and that they are all good. I believe I can craft a story about what I have decided to write about.
Last month, I shared the opening paragraphs from Daryl Wood Gerber’s FINAL SENTENCE.* She’s an expert at sneaking her details into the story so her readers barely notice.
Here’s another example from that book:
“So excited,” she (Aunt Vera) repeated.
No kidding. The striped walls of the bookshop blurred together; I felt trapped in a kaleidoscope. Chipped walls painted baby blue, olive green, and a weird fleshy pink color flashed around me. Normally, I liked twirling and dancing. I (Jenna)3 adored music — rock and roll, country, and big Hollywood musical classics. My mother used to play the radio full blast when she drove me to art classes, and we would sing and car-dance to our hearts’ content. But I had returned to my childhood town of Crystal Cove less than an hour ago, and I hadn’t found my sea legs yet. Warmer than normal August temperatures weren’t helping my equilibrium.
“Too-ra-loo,” my aunt sang merrily. Her turban flopped to and fro. Copious strands of beads clacked against her phoenix amulet. Her royal blue caftan flared out around her large frame. “I have such a good feeling about our new venture. Sing with me. Too-ra-loo.”
“Too-ra-loo,” I croaked as I tried to slow her down by skidding on my heels. Three-dollar flip-flops didn’t win the prize for gaining traction. Why couldn’t I be a tennis shoe person? Except when exercising, I never wore them. “I’m feeling seasick.” The breakfast burrito that I had wolfed down on the short drive south from San Francisco was rebelling.
“Oh, my, you do look a little pookie.” Without warning, Aunt Vera released me.
Like a top, I gyrated out of control and landed chest-first against the shop’s ancient oak sales counter. Air spewed out of me. My butter yellow T-shirt inched up over my low-slung cutoffs. I wriggled the T-shirt down and checked my body for broken bones — none as far as I could tell, but my abdominals would ache for days.
Aunt Vera clapped. She wasn’t a sadist; she was ecstatic. “I’m so glad you said yes.”
Yes, to moving back to Crystal Cove. Yes, to moving into the cottage beside her seaside home. Yes, to helping her revitalize the aging cookbook shop that resided in the quaint Crystal Cove Fisherman’s Village.
From 350 words, we get more details. The shop they’re cleaning is a bookstore focusing on cookbooks. This implies that Vera loves to cook and loves to share her passion with others.
We know it is summer and the town of Crystal Cove is not far from San Francisco and is along the coast. We also learn a very important fact. Jenna struggled with her decision to move there.
As a writer, you can tell that Daryl knew exactly who her characters were and how they relate to each other. Her first draft might not have been so specific but by the time she got to her final draft, she had cemented the details.
As you plow through your drafts, it’s wise to use this example as a way to communicate clearly with your readers.
P.S. If you missed WHERE TO STUFF THE STUFF PART I, check it out here.
*Reprinted with permission from the author. Wood, Daryl Wood, FINAL SENTENCE. Penguin Group, USA, 2013.