Rewriting the beginning

Here’s a post at Women Writers, Women’s Books: Unstuck: Writing the Beginning Over and Over

There are as many ways to become stuck as there are plot twists in a great whodunit. Last month we explored being stuck as you try to find your way into your story. This month let’s examine another common trap:  

Stuck Writing the Beginning Over and Over

Sometimes we must scrap everything and start over. But way more often we only want to scrap everything and start over. 

Maybe we’ve gotten feedback that makes us re-consider our original story idea. Maybe we have a different idea of a character’s motivation. All of these thoughts and concerns are good! Keep a notebook and write them down. 

But it’s also important to keep moving forward.

I’m pretty sure this has never happened to me. Wait, you know what, I’ll just be definite: This has never happened to me.

I HATE scrapping ANYTHING until I have, oh, 80,000 words down and can see that I’m nowhere near finished. At that point I suddenly switch to wielding an enthusiastic ax. I may pause and cut stuff right then or I may just assure myself that I’ll be cutting later, so it’s fine. (Spoiler: it’s not always fine. This is when I start to wince as I see that a project is going to be a lot longer than I had expected / wanted / hoped.

Anyway, I always, or nearly always, really like my beginning scenes.

Still, this post is making some good points.

As writers, we’re learning useful things (details, character traits, overall themes) as we write our first chapters; for some of us, writing is the only way we can learn them. Others may have traits and themes, etc., plotted out beforehand, but the actual writing always brings some surprises. Characters come across differently on the page than they do in our heads.

This resonates a lot more. For me, I’m definitely learning about the characters and the world as I write those first chapters. It’s true I often revise to some degree, as I figure out more stuff about the characters and the world. Usually the very beginning doesn’t have to be revised all that much. For me, it’s the late beginning or the early middle. That’s the section that’s more likely to be scrapped entirely.

But look at this:

I think of scenes as chapters so when I’ve written the first scene —knowing it will be re-tooled in revision—I write the last two sentences of that scene then take the second one out and use it as the first sentence in the next scene. (I’m trying to fool myself into taking this sentence out so the next page must be turned.)

What a neat idea that is! I often struggle a bit with chapter breaks. This sounds like a sort of neat way to try out different breaks rapidly and decide which feels best.

It’s a pretty good post. By all means click through and read it if you’ve got a minute.

Hat tip: The Passive Voice.

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