I usually start a project from a single idea, or in the case of my new WIP, a single sentence. Then I run with it. It's kind of exciting--not knowing what's going to happen next. If the words are flowing and my muse is in the mood, the story writes itself, taking turn after turn before I have time to think about what might happen next. But when the word fount is dry, I just have to wait. I'll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with an entire character conversation fresh in my head, or an idea will come to me while I'm loading the dishwasher. I plop down in front of the screen and run with it.
With my first novel, the words came fast. Almost too fast. It was like I'd bottled up all of my creative energy for years, gave the bottle a good, hard shake and pulled the cork. It took just shy of three months to plunk down 137,000 words. Can you say OVERKILL? I guess I really had been holding it all in! My second novel took a little longer. It was a sequel, so I already knew the characters, but the story developed at a much slower pace. Six months later, I had a finished product through one round of edits and revisions. The third installment took off immediately after I finished with book two. I already had an idea, and I thought that it would be pretty easy to hit my stride. But as some of you know, I decided to shelf book three for a while, worried that I was wasting my creative juices on a dead end. So I challenged myself to write something new, fresh and completely different.
The story was founded on a single sentence. Not an idea this time, which upped the ante a little. The new characters sparked my passion and just like that, I was back in the swing of things. I can safely say that I am half-way done. But--being a 'from the hip' writer, I've hit the brakes. I have a general idea where I'm headed, but the road to get there is a little curvy. If I'd only taken the time to think the story through, write out a chapter outline, maybe I wouldn't be having this problem. Maybe I would. My characters are hanging out, mid-conversation, stuck in a sort of limbo. I think they'll be okay with it though ;) If I force myself to continue, I know that my writing will also be forced, and that just detracts from the reality of the story and the honesty of my voice. I can wait. I'll mow my yard again, plant some herbs, wash dishes. The story will make its way back to me. I'm half way through the story and only a month in to writing it. I've got time and I'll let my muse enjoy spring for a while and then just like a gun slinger, I'll pull the words right from my holster at where? You guessed it... The Hip!