How Do YOU Start a Project?

How do you get started on a project? Modern wisdom suggests a structured, methodical process, but unless information comes into the project in a structured, methodical manner, it’s best to maintain flexibility and maximize the potential of where you’re at in regards to the overall picture. I’ll use my novels as an example.
My first novel, “The Jesus Rock,” starts off with “Big Jim Dunning was not the kind of person you could take one look at and then forget. His was an imposing persona, from the long, straggly hair, to the exposed, tattooed, and bulging biceps, right down to those beat up leather biker boots you could tell every inch of this man had a story to tell.” When I started this novel, I only had the title and the main character, Big Jim Dunning, to start with. With only that information in hand, it was apparent the first thing to do was introduce the main character to the reading audience. The story built from there, like placing brick upon brick atop a foundation until the project was completed. A nice, smooth flow that would make any project manager smile when it was all complete. A bit maddening along the way when you consider the end was never in sight until it was there, however. Many a project is like that, just placing one foot in front of the other until it is complete.
My second novel, “The Trials of Jim Dunning,” took a different path. The main character being firmly established in the first novel, there was no need for introductions. For this story, the middle was already well conceived, and the task of starting the project was, indeed, daunting without a beginning or an end. Imagine, if you will, trying to build a three-story house with the second story complete and no knowledge of where the foundation or third story existed. Not an easy task by a long shot. This project eventually started with a reference to the previous work to start out on. If you peel back the cover and start on the first sentence, you will find “Bacon.” Everyone loves bacon, right? That beloved element became the first building block towards the already carefully planned middle and ending of the story. Sometimes a project works that way. The end goal isn’t clearly defined, no one is sure how to start, but there are some know elements and how you get to the end is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
The third novel, “The Mysterious Tunnel,” was nothing like the other two. The complete story came to me all at once, while working on the second novel. A bit strange knowing how the third book would end before knowing how the second would, but inspiration isn’t a predictable road to travel. Fortunately, I had the wisdom to construct a complete outline (for the first time in my life) of the story so it wouldn’t be forgotten. This one opens with, “The rain was misting on his windshield as Joshua Carson drove towards Pine Ridge, the town on the other side of the mountain from Brooksville where he lived.” It was easy to jump right into it with a “hook” to get the reader to ask themselves what the trip was about. With a clear beginning, middle, and end already plotted out, the only roadblock to this project was having the time to actually write it. This is also a pitfall many of us have seen with various projects. Having a clearly defined path, but not enough resources to get the job done.
The moral of the story? Be prepared to do the most with what you’re given. Always look at something like you’ve never done it before to get a fresh take on it. If you tie yourself to a rigid, unflinching process, you’ll end up with rigid, unflinching results. Dare to step out of the box and be extraordinary!

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