Sanity Snippet #2

I’ve been giving some thought to my Sanity Snippet project. I’ve gained some clarity and believe an alternative approach will provide more value to my beginning novelist readers.

As earlier described, the goal of Sanity Snippets was to provide encouragement and an opportunity for writing practice. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is that the practice will be more logically fluent and provide a pathway to writing your first novel. Please allow me to illustrate with an analogy.

Think of the game of football. I recall football practices from my high school days. I still cannot believe that was over half-a-century ago. There definitely was a logic to what Coach Hicks had us players do: warmup exercises, breaking into groups by player type to work on skills and techniques (quarterbacks, footwork & throwing, and receivers running routes and catching), dividing into teams and scrimmaging, and finally, running wind-sprints to close out the practice session (fun, fun). These long and grueling hours were not merely for the sake of having something to do. They were for one purpose, that of preparing our minds and bodies to defeat our next opponent. Think of the ‘game’ of novel writing. It too requires many long and grueling hours of practice.

This analogy has altered my plans for Sanity Snippets. I think we must have a focused plan and not write something that may have nothing to do with our first or next novel. We need to better use the time we spend on the writing practice field.

In sum, our daily writing practice will be fruitful if we write a few words or sentences (more is even better). The extra benefit is that our efforts will move us positively toward our long-term goal: our self-published book.

Sound good? Great. Let’s get started.

All novels start with an idea, but not just any idea. It has to be one that will carry the weight of our story for 3 to 400 hundred pages. I can easily testify that not all ideas can perform at that level. I have many a manuscript that met its death somewhere early in Act II.

You may already have an idea. You may have already written a few notes. Maybe they concern an interesting circumstance, a character’s unique personality, a symbol or image, a few lines of explosive dialogue, or a complete scene or two. Many writers refer to these disparate thoughts as story seeds.

It’s critical to evaluate and develop your ideas before wasting countless hours and words just to find yourself lost in a dark cave with no hope of finding your way home. H.R. D’Costa refers to this evaluation and development process as “popping the story kernel.”

In her invaluable writing guide, Sizzling Story Outlines: How to Outline Your Screenplay or Novel, D’Costa teaches that once we isolate our story kernel (the story seed that appears to incorporate all or most of the others; usually involves a situation, a character, or a theme), there are six key components (protagonist, goal, antagonist, stakes, genre, and hook) we must address before we can determine if our story kernel can go the distance.

Now, to today’s Sanity Snippet. Start thinking and writing about your main character. This is your story’s protagonist. Here’s a few questions to answer: 1) male or female?; 2) age?; 3) name?; 4) physical characteristics?; and 5) what’s his or her backstory?

Here’s a backstory overview for my protagonist: Billy has grown up in New York City. He just completed the 8th grade at The Math & Science Exploratory School in Brooklyn. His widowed mother just died of pancreatic cancer.

The above five questions are all important. Don’t just think about your answers, write them down.

Remember, this is going to take a while. We are going to eat this elephant one bite at a time.

Never forget, you are a writer if you write.

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