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Attempting to rewrite the beginning of my current project (and in this case it's very literally a rewrite--I think only about 5% of the actual words are the same as they were in the previous draft) is making me feel somewhat like the pictured parrot.

I think beginnings are the hardest part of writing for me. I struggle with endings, too (don't we all? Endings are hard!) but at least I really *enjoy* endings, so I don't mind so much. Beginnings... I want to get to the really exciting stuff!

If I could just start right at the end of the first act, I would be quite happy. But unfortunately all my readers would be quite confused.

Anyone have any great tips for getting things started? Links to articles or posts on writing beginnings? I'm feeling in need of a little inspiration/advice.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
What is it that you struggle with in beginnings? Is it that you feel like they are too slow and bogged down with set up and establishing story, characters etc.?
Mar. 3rd, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Well, I tend to go one way or the other--either I get into the action too quickly and don't explain enough beforehand, so people are confused/not emotionally engaged, or I spend too much time setting things up before getting to the action and people are bored.

A good beginning contains all (or at least most) of the important elements that will drive the story--characters, motivations, etc. And I find it difficult to squeeze them all in and balance their development with the plot I'm trying to get started and keeping everything clear and yet not over-explained.
Mar. 4th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that balance is important.
For me as a reader, I think that if I can care about the character first I'm willing to wade through a little set up. But I have to engage with the character.
I like reading books where there is a quick take off into something exciting but I also books where I am allowed to see a bit of the character's normal life first before it is turned upside down. Again, it boils down to engaging with the character, for me anyway.

I haven't analyzed this or anything but Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books all pull me in right away. The first two Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs did too.

In the How To department there is a book called Beginnings, Middles and Endings by Nancy Kress (your local library will probably have it) that may offer something helpful.
Mar. 5th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
I may look up that book, just to see what it says. I find I have a pretty good idea of how it's supposed to work... It's just getting it to actually work on the page that's the tricky part (isn't it always?). :) Thanks!
Mar. 3rd, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
That's funny--I just got done reading this post by Diana Pharaoh Francis. :)

I have problems with beginnings, too. One thing I try to do is make the beginning scene mirror either the climax or the ending. Does that make sense? And I make sure to plant the seeds for the climax right in the very first scenes. I usually end up writing them after my book is done and the climax and end are the way I want them.

I also like what Jim Butcher says about introducing characters here.
Mar. 5th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)
Well, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles with beginnings! I've tried that mirroring trick, too, but sometimes I find it's counter-productive (because I end up focusing more on the mirroring than making sure the scene works as an opening scene).

Thanks for the Jim Butcher link! Great advice there.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'm sending good beginning vibes your way -- I also struggle with them, and I've only started my story in the right place a couple of times (out of the umpteen books I've written).
Mar. 5th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Thank you for the vibes! I tweaked it some more and I'm a little happier with it now. Waiting to hear what my writers group will say next week. :)

I don't think I've ever gotten a beginning right on the first try... GIVE UP THE GHOST and the books after have all ended up starting in different places from their first drafts.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
Read the first few pages of every William Sleator book you can find. Love or hate his stories or his writing style, he is a master at starting YA novels, imho--establishing setting and characters, creating a sense of mystery or anticipation. He jumps right in to every story he tells with no waffling. If you look on amazon you can read the first few pages of a lot of his stuff.
Mar. 5th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
Heh, I *like* to start my stories the WS way, jumping right in... but I seem to jump a little too far too fast most of the time. ;)
Mar. 5th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
He jumps in and gives enough details to keep the reader in the loop. It is a delicate balance. I will say I am not as impressed by his early early stuff. Good lord, that man has been writing forever! He was one of my elementary and middle school faves. :)
Mar. 4th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Beginnings are the bane of my existence, accompanied by my writing desk which my boyfriend has highjacked, turned into a box tower and cluttered with his things.

Right now I've been toying with the cue-card approach to a new project. I found these great different coloured ones so I can replace my scenes according to draft. But beginnings are hard, aren't they?

A source of constant inspiration to me is flipping through all of my favourite books. Namely books by Margaret Atwood and Scott Westerfield- could go on.

At any rate (I'm only half sober right now, so this might not be too coherent), some ideas I've been thinking of are writing short scenes that I'm dying to write and sticking the coolest in the beginning to start the pace off. Some advice that I have always loved was "It doesn't matter in what order you see the rooms, as long as you see the entire house."

It depends on the scope of the project, but I've always loved books and movies where the timeline is a little skewered. For example: Pulp Fiction, Sin City, Oryx and Crake, The Time Traveller's Wife, Girl, Interrupted.

And of course, an endless inspiration is hitting up a huge brilliant library and immersing myself for a couple of hours.

Off to bed now so I can't ramble on anymore. Hope some of that made sense for you and good luck!
Mar. 5th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
I haven't yet been able to convince myself to write a story out of chronological order (other than short flashbacks)... I'm too much of a linear thinker! But I am in awe of Pulp Fiction, The Time Traveler's Wife, and others that manage it. Who knows, maybe some day!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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