Saturday, July 24, 2010

AT THE START

Most writers, I suspect, struggle with different aspects of the craft at times. For me, it’s beginnings. How to hook’em and draw them into the story. That first chapter, those first few lines. How to be brilliant and captivating and (dread of all dreads!) avoid the clichéd opening. Yikes!

And for me this crisis continues throughout the book in mini form with the start of each new chapter.

But nothing compares to the anxiety that comes with penning the all-important first page of a new WIP.

Let’s face it. If you don’t catch the agent/editor/reader on the first page, in the first few lines of your baby, you’ve lost them.

No pressure there, huh?

The fantasy I’m currently revising is a perfect example of how I struggle with beginnings. From its inception I have wrestled with how to start this novel. Twenty-nine beginnings later I thought I finally had it right.

Wrong. A dear friend looked at my shiniest new version and said, “Eh, too confusing and too much of an info dump.”

Rats.

Back to the drawing board and beginning number thirty. I dumped the entire first chapter and started in a brand new place. Virgin territory, a beginning that was actually new! Surely, I was on the right track.

She looked at it and said, “Jeanie, your beginning is actually in the middle of page two. That’s where you should start.”

I looked and, sure enough, she was right. Why couldn’t I see that?

Too close to my little darlings, I guess.

So, what gives you fits when you write, that hairball of a beginning, the sagging middle or winding it all up in satisfactory fashion?

10 comments:

Christine said...

It's like whittling or sculpting. Sometimes we gotta cut a lot of wood and rock out of the way to reveal the beauty that's already there. CPs are so helpful with this process.

Jeanie said...

Amen, Christine! You cannot write in a vacuum. One of the hardest things for a writer, I think, is to know where to cut. That's where fresh eyes and a new perspective come in. Invaluable!

Cari Hislop said...

Great post! A few weeks back I was having a bad day or I was sick and I made the mistake of reading through one of my WIP's and I decided ten thousand words were rubbish and had to go (it had taken me months to write them). Being sensible I left them. I read back over them tonight and I think they're right so I'm keeping them until I have another bad day. I never have problems with the beginnings, for me it's remembering not to try to end the story before the story is told. :/

Carla Swafford said...

I'll edit the crap out of a book until it's such a mess, I have no idea where I was going with the thing.

Jeanie said...

Cari, I also have trouble sometimes remembering to slow down and let the story unfold. I have to take a deep mental breath, try and relax and go with the flow. Hard to do when your fingers are itching and your characters are talking to you!

Christine said...

One thing I learned was to keep moving forward in first draft writing until you get to THE END. Don''t go crazy fixing stuff till you get there--then let it sit and go back for your read through. After that, it's easier to edit. Oddly, despite having revised the plot 3 times, changed the MC's careers and added different/subtracted characters--I still go back to the first draft for seeds. It's really amazing how much of the original premise is in the first draft. Helps me when I am editing. And the bizarre thing is that the beginning and the ending have essentially remained the same. The words have changed, but the idea and loop to close the circle has remained the same.

M.V.Freeman said...

Its the blasted middle, heading toward the end...gets me all up in a snit.

That's where I am at now. I drag my feet...whine...curse..and still it must get done.

I agree with Christine--I need good, honest CP's like I have to tell me if I'm way off base or not.

I am also learning NOT to be such a control freak about making sure EVERY thing is perfect. Its not going to be. Just turn the page thats all I ask.....(and that you want to turn the page)

JoAnn said...

Definitely the middle. Ack. I can write a fabulous beginning and an emotion-packed ending (well, on some days. If I squint really hard. And have a couple of martinis.)

But the middle? Oy!

Cari Hislop said...

Jeanie: That's good advice...I think I do need to mentally slow myself down...which is probably why my characters go on holiday now and then to remind me its their story. Thankfully they've come back from sunnier climes and are talking again. I've finished chapter 26 for probably the 26th time, but they're happy and I'm happy. Now for chapter 27. My goal for today (or tonight rather), the first sentence. :)

Jeanie said...

Sorry, guys, for not responding to some of your posts. I've been missing in action. Left Sunday for Disney World and have been playing with Mickey and Harry Potter.