Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Start With Something Small

You have a grand sweeping epic of a story idea. Good vs. Bad in a world where it is not always evident who is who. An intricate magic system where your magical power is funneled from hypiverian grapefruit, guarded by evil warrior monkeys (I like it!). There are dramatical swoops of the heart and pangs of the soul, that tell an epic that will wrench and uplift. It is a story that will be talked about for decades to come.

And you’ve almost gotten through your first draft. It’s massive. It’s amazing.

And it’s your first story.


I’ve heard it said before, I roundly ignored the advice, but now I think I see the light.

Writing a novel is a whole new craft to learn, a new skillset that must be explored to find how it works for you. The urge is to want to run, but first we must walk.

Before Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he had already learned and honed his skill into that of a master.

My stories started out complex and epic; because of that, I am having to take the time to rework them, deconstructing and figuring them out from the outside-in. It is hard work with writing this long, plots this complex. It would have been easier to start simple and figure out my process first.

That’s not what I did, but it is what you can do.

If I had spent the time learning, instead of diving in head-first, perhaps I would already have some complete work, published for the world to see.

...And now, because there are very few definites in life, what if I had started small? The passion and fire of that initial idea drove me to places I may have never reached if I had gone small. Sure, I would have saved countless hours digging back through that mire of scenes and characters, concepts and world-building. My life would be so much more organized and sane. But would the story burn within?

If I could recommend anything, I would say to pursue your passion, but focus small...if you can. Otherwise, shoot for the stars. You’ll never reach them anyway, but staring into the heavens can have its own reward.

So, will you start small? Or will you run away with fingers lodged solidly in your ears, your Golden Idea roaring in your mind? If you don’t believe me, if you don’t really think that starting small works for you, go ahead and throw 100,000 words into a document and then see how fun it is to try to wade through the mass and put some order to it all.

How about the rest of you? Did you start small and work up? Or did you bite off something huge and then choke on it while you tried to chew it down to something manageable and something that worked?

I think you know what I did.


  1. I think I know what you mean. I always tried to start too big and didn't get far. Now that I've finally accepted starting small, my small project seems to be growing faster than I can finish it. My brain just automatically pushes me to go further.

  2. Stupid brain just thinks it is soooo smart.

    It is fun, though. Frustrating at times, but fun. If you're a lover of Epic Fantasy, perhaps that is just your natural inclination, to try and find the "epic" of any story. That said, if you are really wanting to get something completed but keep running into this issue, try limiting yourself in some way. Given enough time, I think anyone and any story can be stretched out to herculean proportions.

    Try an outline to keep your focus, eliminate characters/storylines, keep your focus down to a smaller portion, and give yourself a timeframe. Mayhaps that might work. I have one short story that I consider finished. If I were to go back and look, I'm sure I'd find something wrong with it and keep working on it, but I'm going to try and remember it is "finished", and not do that. This story and two others that are also considered finished (not polished, but their story plotting is done and I could finish them quickly), were all results of a side story told in connection with one of my novels. In doing that I feel it helped me develop the world and though I enjoyed the side story, I still wanted to get back to the main book.

    Either way, enjoy the ride, may it never stop.

    So, what's the story about?


Thanks for reading, now tell me what you think.