I have the voice. I have the setting. I have the plot. I can literally (and I mean literally) hear the character speaking inside my head. But it still hasn’t come together. Because the very last thing I need in order to for a book to work is the perfect first scene.
Many authors do not need the perfect first scene. They just write any old scene and revise it later.
I do not work that way. I need the perfect first scene because the perfect first scene leads to the perfect second scene. It’s my own special mania, perhaps.
The perfect first scene contains many things, but the most important thing that’s missing, right now, from all my first scene attempts is that I want it to perfectly encapsulate the central conflict of the book. From the very first scene–usually even the very first paragraph–you want a hint of tension. And right now I don’t have that. And that slackness keeps me from writing further. There’s just no point in writing any action or setting detail or dialogue unless it’s somehow animated by thwarted desire.
It’ll come to me.
Usually, though, when I’m at an impasse like this, it means I need to change one of my assumptions about the book. It’s not that I just haven’t found the perfect scene yet, it’s that the perfect scene CANNOT yet be written, because the perfect scene would contain elements that are, currently, at war with my Platonic conception of the book.
My friend Courtney Sender and I were talking about this recently. She was talking about how sometimes your editor will ask you to add a line to a scene, but you can’t do it, because the language is so tight that all the sentences flow logically from each other, and there’s simply no space to put in a new one. The solution, in these cases, is to smash the scene apart and rewrite it such that the flow of the language can now accomodate the new line. That is a hard thing to do, though.
That’s what I’m doing now. I had a book–an entire draft of a novel–and now I need to smash it apart and rebuild it so that it can hold my new conception of the character.