"I shall now begin this novel. It shall have no prequel, and no sequel, and shall be independent of any other saga. And I shall call it 'Unbeknownst to most people'."--Me.
I don't start a lot of novels. I've just realized this. The first thing I ever started was a novel about Jedi, but I meant it as the beginning of a series. And after that everything was practice while I worked out what exactly it meant to put words together and form ideas and communicated thoughts and tell stories. I wrote beginnings and I had no plan where they were going, and I didn't really think of them too seriously as having a point. I made characters, I made scenarios, Jedi fell to the wayside, and I mostly thought about magic. And then I had a breakthrough--a really "ah-hah" moment, which sent me into a run around, snapping of fingers, unable to stay still, style of minor adrenaline rush.
Fantasy has always been one of my favorite style of story. And, rather intuitively, I wrote a lot of fantasy. Independent fantasy thoughts--no characters, no places, in common. But something they had in common was magic. Or, more accurately, a lack of knowing how magic worked. There was a piece here, an attempt at explaination in that bit with the lost king, some ethereality in the outline about the blind hunter, and a lot of ambience. But no real understanding. A good third of everything I wrote for a few years had this similar ambience, and this similar question, "Magic? Egads!"
There was a story of a lost king, who was thrown from the womb of his mother in the fantastical and magical world, and swapped with a child of Earth. And then, when he came of age, he made his way back, to his throne in the wake of several great heroes.
That was the "ah-hah" moment. I had already written about several great heroes in quests before a lost king. Well, one; and a couple other characters fit the mould with perfect continuance. This put five stories all together all at once, and after that I found a few more, and some more. Pretty soon, a third of everything I'd written for years had become a purposed style of monster saga, far to big to have anything much done with it yet. But I began defining the magic by leaps and bounds. And I continued adding to it, till this past year when I got the critiques for Shivers, and finished answering the question, "Magic? Egads!"
So in one fantasy universe, I know how magic works. I have thought of it, and it makes sense to me, and it pleases me.
From that "ah-hah" moment, I pretty much had two projects: the fantasy saga, and my sci-fi saga. I didn't really have them set up in my head as series, but more as universes from which to fish out various stories to tell. In my sci-fi universe at least I've discovered one series that's just a pretty straight forward point A to point W piece.
But just recently, I've realized to myself that I've never really put forward in my mind a novel, which I mean to be entirely self-contained.
I think it's time, though.
Now I must relearn starting.
I have a first chapter, I have a situation and characters which intrique me. To work!