Back to the beginning

I have spent the last month re-writing my opening. Openings are the most difficult part of the novel or short story for me to write.

When an inspirations hits me, and an idea begins to form and clarify in my head, it’s as though I’m watching something under water. Before clarity, the words come, and as I write the tale begins to rise to the surface.

The result is that the stories I have written always begin with pretty prose – not a question, idea, situation, or setting, but normally just a person, some feelings, and some words. For a reader, this makes for some pretty boring beginnings.

So, I’ve had to create situations, let the reader get to know the MC through actions rather than introspect (at least in my current wip). At times this comes easy, at others I go through situation after situation, sometimes writing the opening over and over until I find the right one. This time I was pretty lucky, but I also got smarter πŸ™‚ I didn’t let myself re-write the opening until I found it. And find it I did!

Now that I have my opening scenes (because the whole first 50 pages changed along with the very first ones), I’ve been reading it, and re-reading it, and slowly adding on, until I come to the point where I’ll merge into the rest of the draft.

I ask myself questions with each and every scene. Some of them are:

What’s the purpose of the scene?

What’s the motivation (driving force) here?

Does my mc attain her want too quickly?

What do I want to reveal? And is it done through action rather than telling?

Are my characters consistent?

How about you: how do you handle your beginnings?

Announcement: In the coming weeks I will be having three guests! Andre K. Baby, Cathryn Grant, and Teresa Frohock. Each will be talking about their book and the publication process!

Happy writing

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19 thoughts on “Back to the beginning

  1. Gwen says:

    I have rewritten the opening of my novel at least a half a dozen times. It is frustrating ’cause I am never happy. 😦

  2. I think I mentioned a few times that the third chapter of my book was the beginning, the place where I started. As time went on I realized that I wanted a different beginning, something that would show a bit of the situation and hopefully make people want to keep reading.

    I like the beginning I have with my current WIP. But I have to admit, I plan to make a few changes because I need it to flow better also, I realized today that I wanted a few sentences added at the very beginning.. Gee, Jennifer, if all this doesn’t make me sound wishy washy I don’t know what does? LOL

  3. In my soon-to-be-published novel, I rewrote the opening paragraph at least ten times. Then, after I completed writing and three edits, my first chapter became my second chapter!

    I think the opening of my wip will remain the opening, and I think the first sentence is strong, but you never know. I might get further into the story and realize it’s not that strong, or I need to start at a different place in the story.

    I think you have to get something down to start the story flowing, but it’s a good idea to re-examine the beginning later.

    • It sounds so good to hear you say “my soon-to-be-published novel”, Linda!!! πŸ™‚

      You hit on the main problem for me, Linda. Thinking this is IT, but then days, weeks, or months later realizing, nahhh that wasn’t it. That’s why I leave my beginnings as roughs even if I try to make most of the rest shine. I come back to it when I feel I’m close to being ‘done’. Right now, I still have a lot of work ahead of me, so although I’m really happy with my new beginning, I’m not making it sparkle. NOt yet πŸ™‚
      Happy writing!

  4. I’ve had five or six so far, tinkering with it when I needed a break from other parts of the novel. For the most part I’ve done more discarding than rewriting for the beginning.

    What the process has done for me is help me understand my back story better and kept me from bludgeoning my readers with it. At times it’s been frustrating, but taking time to get it right is well worth it.

    Even now, I’m toying with lopping off one more chapter and starting things even farther along in the story.

  5. I have a difficult time with openings for all the reasons you mention. And like others, I start one place and then another.

    I love this line! What a beautiful and precise description: When an inspirations hits me, and an idea begins to form and clarify in my head, it’s as though I’m watching something under water. Before clarity, the words come, and as I write the tale begins to rise to the surface.

  6. A single line occurred to me several years ago:

    “I had never given any serious thought to killing people outside of the usual.”

    From that alone I developed the dark comic transgressive fiction novel “Weekend Getaways, or Adventures in Contract Killing.” I have never changed the opening line although I have revised the first chapter (and am continuing to do so) to enhance the effect I am trying to achieve throughout the piece.
    It will not be published unless by a miracle. It is filled with a variety of fonts and typefaces, various colors, and harsh subject matter. But I seriously enjoy re-working it and developing it because it makes a statement and is, to some, perversely entertaining.
    Sometimes, it is not about publication but about the craft.

  7. christicorbett says:

    I entered the First Line Blogfest a few days ago. I’m currently happy with my first line, but that wasn’t always the case. Last night, I decided to go down memory lane and review all my drafts and see the evolution of my first line.

    I’ve rewritten that bad boy no less than twenty-five times! I cringe at my early mistakes (how many times did I use the word “was”? Too many to count πŸ™‚ ) but know rewrites are what makes for strong pieces.

    Thanks for sharing your process,
    Christi Corbett
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

    • Hi Christi! It can be amazing how much the opening can change, especially those first paragraphs. Sometimes I see something I discarded, and think, hey that was good, why did I get rid of it?

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