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Thursday, November 13, 2008

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I'm starting a new book today. I've been noodling it around in my head for weeks, even months, figuring out characters and what elements I needed to set up ahead of time in the first book, since the two are part of a series. But I still don't really know the plot, per se, so I'm struggling with how to go about eking out three chapters and a synopsis for my proposal.

Here's what I think. I think I need to write chapter one. Or at least scene one, get into the heads of the characters a little and see what that tells me. Then I need to look at my jumbled, jotted notes for this book and find any through lines that make sense, any places where the characters stories' intersect. And I need to read.

Does anyone else do this? To psyche myself up for a new book, I really like to read. In this case, since these are culinary romances set in the New York restaurant scene, I plan to read things like On the Line, Eric Ripert's new memoir of life at Le Bernardin, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's memoir, and The Nasty Bits, a collection of essays and articles by Anthony Bourdain. I might reread Kitchen Confidential and Heat, the books that started my brain on the path that led to my first book getting sold.

It's partly research, partly steeping myself in these guys and their voices and their stories, hoping to skim a little authenticity off the top for my own personal use. Not that I want to cannibalize their stories; I've got plenty of ideas of my own! But the way they think and react? I'll take a crash course in that, please, with a side of kitchen lingo. Thanks.

What do you do when you're about to type 'Chapter One'? Any rituals that help you get going?


Chapter one is very much a discovery zone for me. I meet the characters, hear them for the first time, get into their heads. My openings often change so much as the writing progresses that I can't worry about it too much - there's no point. It's just to get me started and moving through the story.

I usually have to write 2-3 chapters before I can even think about the synopsis. :) The characters will guide you, baby!

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