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!


Roadblocks and the Writing Process

It was a time to reflect as I was about to wrap up my third novel. A time to reflect on how I got to this point. I can’t deny the last five years haven’t been without challenge. No need to go into detail here, as I don’t share those details with others in person, either. Needless to say, when working on my first novel, I found the writing process to be somewhat therapeutic. Everyone is supposed to have a book in them, and I thought maybe this would be my only one. After a few starts and stops, I committed myself to the process of a minimum of 500 words a day until the story was complete. Oh, what a thrill it was to hold that first book in my hands! Other writers know what I’m saying here. Long story short, the first book was a success and inspiration for a sequel was soon at hand. I only knew the middle of the story as I began to work on it, carefully piecing together parts to get the story off the ground and progress to the part I already knew. It was then a strange thing happened as I was working that project. A new story came to me before this project was complete. Somehow, I knew how the third story was going to end before the second one was complete. It was at that point where I felt compelled to put down that third story in outline form so I’d not forget it. I’m mentioning that detail because not only was that a move totally out of character for me, it was something I’d never done before in my entire life. Even in school, when we were required to do an outline for a project, I always did the project first and completed the outline last as an afterthought. Looking back, I’m calling the intuition to do an outline for that story divine providence. As this story unfolds, you will see why. I returned to that second story, and was starting to get together some ideas to market it. All of that came to a crashing halt as I lost my dad several weeks after completing that second book. My writing came to a halt with his death as I dealt with the emotions of that on top of the aforementioned “challenges.” My creative ability to write was gone for the time being. I wasn’t through dealing with those issues when I began to start showing symptoms of my own illness. After a couple months of thinking it would “go away” on its’ own, I finally relented and visited a doctor. The verdict was one I wasn’t happy with, Coronary Artery Disease. A catherization was scheduled to determine the extent, and after being postponed (due to Obamacare red tape), and moved back up thanks to someone cancelling (a little more divine providence) I was on the table to see how bad I was. Quite a marvel of modern medicine to be able to watch the surgeon poking around my heart on TV while it was going on, but I hope no one reading this will ever have the experience. The test revealed a 99-100% blockage of the Left Anterior Descending Artery. For those of you still reading, that particular artery has a nickname. It’s called “the widow-maker.” That’s right, the test revealed I should’ve been dead. More divine providence. One stent later, I was back in business, or so I thought. Dealing with the meds was an odyssey I wasn’t prepared for. Between the cholesterol, blood-thinning, and blood pressure drugs, my mind and body were a total mess. I was racked with aches, pains, a very foggy brain, and some pretty nasty mood swings. No room for creativity in that head! I gave up the thinners when I got lost on the way to work one morning. Knowing you were on the right road, but not knowing where you are isn’t a pleasant experience, let me tell you. I began exercising to get a handle on the blood pressure issue, when the cholesterol drugs reared their ugly head with another side effect. I went from feeling really good to not having the strength to walk 30 feet without stopping to rest in a matter of days. Needless to say, I was done with those drugs as well. It’s been over a year, and I still can’t tell if I’m totally recovered from that episode. Still battling fatigue, but I do know I’m dramatically better than the low point. That brings us to present day. If I hadn’t outlined that third story, it would’ve been gone. I looked at the outline numerous times, sometimes wondering where it came from, sometimes wondering where I was going with it, but always thinking it was going to be good if I could ever write again. I think the challenge of remembering the story is what slowly brought both it and the ability to write back. All starting with the first real outline I’d ever done. A process not familiar, but one I’ve already performed for the next book. This has been an incredibly strange process, a journey I hope me or no one else ever has to make again. My plan is to stay healthy and bring more stories to light. With that, I introduce to you readers the culmination of this journey, “The Mysterious Tunnel.” Find it at!