The best blog from the best author you've never heard of. Assorted thoughts ranging from comic books to politics. Sometimes I even talk about writing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Page Two Problem

I saw a comment on Twitter from David Mack (whose books I have enjoyed though I can’t say I look for his work); he was having what I think he called “Page One Blues” over starting a new manuscript: that moment when all you have in front of you is a blank page.

Boy isn’t that the truth.

Although in my case it’s seldom the first page that gives me trouble. The first page is usually pretty easy for me. I tend to have two things in mind for any story I’m telling (sometimes more, but always these two): the opening moment that kicks off the improbable events to follow, and the conclusion. For me, it’s never the first page that’s a problem. It’s the second or third.

Let’s take The Loyalty of Pawns. In every incarnation, the story began right where it begins in its final, available-to-the-world form: Blake Johnson always found an excuse to visit Aaron Collins. Sometimes it was immediate. Sometimes it took a little setup. Sometimes they knew each other. Sometimes they didn’t. But it always began—even in the early gestating comic book form—with Blake meeting with Aaron.

I can’t tell you how many times I started this story. I finished it twice. The first complete draft of this book was written early in college. I wrote the first chapter in a couple hours. Aside from this final time, that attempt was the only one that made it past Blake’s opening scene. Because page one writes itself. Pages two and three…that’s where it gets tough.

I revised and revised and revised that initial manuscript many times. For some reason, I set it aside only to return to it a couple years later, decide the writing was horrendous, and scrap the whole thing. I started again (remember, at this point I’ve pretty much the book). And no matter how many times I tried and how many times I introduced my future audience to Blake, I could not get past those first two pages. I think at some point I have to leap off the cliff that is the opening moment and hope a comforting ledge awaits me.

Only twice have I not encountered my Page Two Problem. And each time was connected to a completed draft of this story. I am at a loss to explain it.

Of course this doesn’t mean that my Page Two Problem has been resolved. The prologue for the follow-up to The Loyalty of Pawns was a quick write. But then I’d had it percolating in my head for a while. Chapter one, though? Chapter one was a cage match, and I wasn’t doing too well for the first few rounds. By the time I’d fought it into submission, though, I ended up with the beginnings of plot development I’d never planned but which I don’t think the book could live without.

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