Friday, August 2, 2013

Back to the Beginning

Any well-written book has a great beginning. It gets you into the story, helps you identify with the character, and makes you want to turn the page. The beginning pages are where most readers decide whether or not to keep reading. If you don’t have a compelling beginning, you won’t have many who keep reading.

When I sat down to write my very first book, I was excited. This was an amazing story, and I was going to finally get it down on paper. But I soon learned the curse of beginnings. Even as I searched for the right words to fill the screen, my inner critic was screaming, “That’s wrong! Fix it!” I’m not sure how, but I knew as I grasped for the proper words to convey the beginning of my complicated story that I was doing it wrong.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept on going, resolving to fix it later. I have since revamped my beginning and drastically changed the story’s start at least three times. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s at least closer than my first attempt.

As I’ve been trying to say, beginnings are hard. The qualities that I mentioned in my first paragraph are HARD to do at any time – let alone the first time you’re committing the story to paper. My beginnings are usually horrible. I write something that helps me get started, and I take off with the story. After I let the story sit, I come back and start editing – working with the issues that I see in the beginning, then moving on.

When I finish my story, I send it off to my beta readers. All of them do me the lovely favor of pointing out what’s wrong with my story. The beginnings generally have most of the problems. Constructive criticism stings sometimes. When you send off your story, you’re convinced it’s brilliant. When you’re contacted by other people, they remind you that you’re human and the story has some issues. The fragile psyche of the writer, boosted by the last round of editing and fixing certain problems, receives a blow with each issue that was NOT addressed or was not fixed fully.

However, it is the job of the writer to create a good story. That means having an awesome beginning – no matter how many drafts it takes. If you’re afraid of losing your brilliance in your current beginning, simply save whatever you delete in a new document. Whenever I’m unsure of what I change, I keep either the addition or the old stuff in another document. That way, it’s not gone forever. Usually, your gut is right. If you know as you type out something that it’s wrong, it probably is. If you feel like your new stuff is better, it probably is.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rewrite a beginning.