Thursday, April 30, 2009

Where to Begin...courtesy of Elana

Okay, I really hope Elana doesn't mind that I am totally stealing her topic here - but as I was responding to her blog post this morning, I realized my short little answer was turning into a post of my own. So, here we are.

Elana asked the question, "How do you start writing your story?"

This question made me stop and think for a second because, up until now, I have always started at the beginning. Occasionally, I would write a scene that went somewhere else, but for the most part I tried to start as close to the beginning as possible and keep things in order.

And it just didn't work for me. I'd get stuck somewhere and just stew over it forever instead of moving on to something else. I suck at beginnings, really. I will spend as much time editing the first 3 chapters as I will on the entire rest of the book, I kid you not. And I was always, ALWAYS stressing over coming up with that perfect first line. And the consequence was four books that never made it past chapter three.

I have started and abandoned those 4 books in the last year, trying to write from start to finish. My new book was different though. Now, I just don't worry about it. I start with whatever wants to come out at the moment, and then I work backwards and forwards and I start filling in the gaps. (and knowing how OC I am with schedules and being organized, the fact that this crazy method of writing is working really well for me cracks me up to no end, but hey, if it works, I'm not going to poke at it too much) :D

For this one, I actually wrote what I thought would be the first five pages first, not because they were the beginning, but because it was the scene in my head at the time. When I was done, I thought, "hmm, sounds like a good beginning"...turns out they are really right smack dab in the middle. But I wasn't sure where to go from there. So I wrote another scene that was in my head. I figured it would be in the middle somewhere. Turns out it will probably be my ending scene. So, I had some end stuff, a bunch of middle stuff, and hardly anything for the beginning.

This should have freaked me out. But it didn't. It worked for me. I took that middle stuff and worked backwards, filling out the stuff I knew needed to come before it, the stuff that I needed to build up to what happens in the middle.

I can't tell you how exciting it has been writing this book. I am always working on something, there is always something going on in my head. And when a scene pops up, I grab my notebook and write it down instead of leaving myself notes for later (which never worked - it was frustrating in the extreme to look at these notes, knowing there was a good scene there, but not being able to remember exactly what it was).

Once I have a scene down, I figure out what I need to do to get to that scene and what needs to happen afterwards to link up to the other stuff - and IT'S WORKING! It is working better than I would have ever thought possible.

I will write a bunch of scenes in order for a while, but I don't ever feel like I am stuck because if I can't figure out what goes next, there is always another scene lurking that I can work on in the meantime. So, while I still experience the inevitable highs and lows and pauses that Real Life throws at me, I have continuously worked on this book since the day I started it. And the best part...I think I might actually finish it! :D

Right now, I have most of my beginning done. I have actually got my beginning up until the middle and a few scenes that will go at the very end. I'm starting to work on the second half of the middle stuff while still stewing over that perfect opening scene (which I haven't figured out yet).

So, my advice for those struggling with that perfect opening (or at least what works for me) - don't stress over the opening so much. It will come eventually. Just write what's in your head - stew about what comes first later (or while you are working on the rest of it). I like stewage time, don't get me wrong, but it has a tendency to derail me if I let it take over. So I just don't anymore :) And I am loving every minute of it :)


Eric said...

I'm sure Elana won't mind you stealing her idea, since she's such a peach. I admire you keeping at it, especially when your initial forays seemed to not pan out as well. Keep at it though; it sounds like you've found your stride and process that works.

Scott said...

I begin where I begin, and end where I end. Whoa, life's really not that simple. For the most part, I get a kernal of an idea, start writing and go from there. I don't do the outline thang. I jot down notes as I go and sometimes write out of sequence.

The beginning is always the hardest of the revision process for me. Sometimes, there's not enough 'oomph' and I rewrite like crazy, changing things over and over again. Sometimes, the beginning gels together so perfectly that I get goosebumps. Yes, goosebumps. Still, even the goosebumpy beginnings get some changes here and there as I hone the manuscript to brilliant, stunning perfection (at least in my mind).

We're all different in how we write, but hopefully we'll all suceed beyond our wildest dreams.

Good Luck!


Danyelle L. said...

That's what happened to me too. I thought I was at the beginning, but it turns out I wasn't. Once I gave myself permission to just write, and that I'd fix structure later if needed, I've been amazed at how well I've been able to write. :D

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

I just write whatever scene is strongest in my head. Many times, they're the same characters, but the scenes have no correlation with each other whatsoever.

The fun part is making that correlation.

Windy said...

Great post! I actually have a whole post on this myself. (

Basically, I write what comes to me and then I figure out where it goes once it's been written. Sometimes things don't happen (in your head) the way you want them to.

Glad you found something that works!

Elana Johnson said...

This is totally how I /should/ be doing it! I need to just write the scenes I have in my head and quit worrying about where they'll end up. I know this, I've done it before, but for some reason it's tripping me up this time. Le sigh.

And Eric, a peach? Nice. Thanks! ;)

Joyce Wolfley said...

I started writing what I thought would be my beginnning. It is now my third and fourth chapters. I ended up adding another POV and subplot after I'd originally thought I'd finished with that section.

When I'm stuck I tend to mark it and move on. Usually the story changes so I didn't need the part I got stuck on anyway.

Suzette Saxton said...

You're not the book thief. You're the BLOG thief. ;)

I agree with Eric, Elana is a peach.

Unknown said...

good luck on finishing the book you are working on now!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I think that's a great idea. Sometimes I can write a whole book straight through without skipping scenes but other times I can't. One thing that always helps, however, is to keep writing. Even if it's not the best writing I've ever done or I have to skip to another scene, it helps to keep writing. I am glad your new way of writing is working for you. Keep writing!