Here's where I begin: with an image. It is an image in my minds eye and in my writer's ear.
In my mind's eye, I can see a scene, like this one. A traditional canoe sailing across a bay somewhere in the Pacific. In my mind's ear, I hear words come together, just a phrase maybe, in a way that makes my heart beat a little faster--there's a feeling of excitement, of promise. The words, one following the other just so, are the beginning of the path I will now take, a path that will lead me through the process of creating something out of nothing.
The goal is to write something that will matter, something that will entertain. It will start in one place and go to another and along the way there will be some sort of adventure, either a physical adventure like the book Hatchet, or an emotional adventure like the The Giver, or a combination of both.
So I start with these images, in my eye and in my ear, and then the hard part comes. I need to answer this question: What is going to happen? Where will we go now? Here are my first thoughts on the book I plan on writing next: It is about a sailing canoe like this one. About two boys or young men, one an island boy, the other not. One will have brown skin and the other will be a mixture--white, brown, yellow. One will know things important to him, the ways of the islands--how to fish, how to sail using the stars and sea to navigate. The other will know things the island boy does not: how to read and many things about the rest of the world beyond the experience of a boy who has spent all his life on a tiny atoll.
They will have a common problem and will need to work together, despite their differences, to overcome it. I'm thinking that I'm going to set the book in the Mariana Islands during World War II. There will be soldiers--it won't matter to the boys if they are Japanese soldiers or American soldiers--and the boys will have to escape the soldiers by moving from island to island while they struggle to survive. Their goal will be to reach an island that legend says has a magical volcano in which the the spirits of the ancestors live and who will protect them and teach them the ways of the ancients.
So, now I see the basic theme of the book emerging: people from different backgrounds, different cultures, with different beliefs and skills having to get along, having to work together, to survive--if the world is going to survive.
My working title will be The Spirit of the Voyage. This comes from the belief held by islanders that every voyage they make has its own spirit, a spirit that travels with the canoe. Writing a book is a voyage, of course, and every book has its own spirit and that spirit comes from the spirit of the writer.
I you have any questions about the Eye of the Stallion trilogy, I'd love to try to answer them.
Let me know what you think.