I can give feedbark at the drop of a tonsil, Mr. Crutcher. As you know, opinion is my middle name. And I will be sending you some of my flotsam for comment forthwith. I now have thirty pages of beginnings and I’m shuffling them. I can see I still don’t have the start I want but sooner or later it will sneak in like aliens in the dark of night. I love the process of starting a new book or a new story. So many possibilities, so many words, and every so often an agate in the gravel.
When I start a book I imagine the “world” of the story. Are these characters equal to the task that interests me? Is this setting effective for telling this particular tale. But I can’t live on thought experiment alone. I have to get the feel of a situation, the feel of a setting, by writing about it. Can I find the voice we need to tell the story? Does one voice work better than another? Will this setting provide not only the backdrop but the tone I need. How else to explore that terrain than to start typing, write about it and learn what I like?
Fearing mistakes? That’s like memorizing the book How To Cultivate Writer’s Block. Teachers urged me to embrace “mistakes” and more than embrace them, cultivate the attitude that they are indispensable tools. As you say, the staple of learning. An airplane autopilot make thousands of mistakes flying between San Francisco and L.A. --- and it gets new information and makes adjustments as it goes. Mistakes, fiddledydash! We wouldn’t have learned to walk without them. And besides, who are any of us? William Faulkner’s mother? No. We’re just women and men learning to write as well as we can.
And by the way, I, too, am working on a new novel where somewhat extra-normal or at least unusual rules apply. Years ago I worked with a parapsychologist in NYC who was fascinated how and under what circumstances different mediums (people with clairvoyant talent) got their information. -- Some claimed a spirit guide, --Some were embarrassed by their inability to understand how they knew what they knew, --Some needed to touch a personal object (comb or ball point or ring) in order to establish supra-normal contact. This parapsychologist believed that no one understood how this phenomenon actually operated, not the person with the ability or the researchers studying it. Now I get to play with that idea!