Wednesday, June 02, 2010


As a younger writer, I often find myself waffling between others' opinions and advice. Although these O's and A's all have value, I've learned that not all should be applied to every situation. Didn't make them wrong, just not for me at that point in time.  


So a while back I decided to give my current manuscript--completed except for word count...yes, I know that means it's not finished but it made me feel better--a facelift, a fresher beginning. But already GROUNDED in the manuscript's beginning, I wasn't able to clear my view to see new openings. Sure, I was latching onto my stagnant beginning like the pathetic ex-girlfriend. *Shrug*  

Anyway, my grip loosened when I came across a post by Nathan Bransford and bookmarked it. In all his awesomeness, he highlighted opening scenes and even used a writer's work as an example. (Hotheads to the writer. Takes a lot of guts to get up on Nathan's stage. Although he's wonderful, he has like a bazzillion followers.) I found his calculations insightful, and he helped me find my equilibrium. 
He broke down opening scenes, honing in on mystery and dialog. 


 A reader must invest in the opening if he/she is expected to read past those crucial first pages. How does the writer elicit that response?

By giving just enough STABLE information about the story world and the main character, and how the two affect the other. There is a fine line, as Nathan explains more HERE. Too much information is overload, where not enough leaves too many questions.

My master plan, after reading that, was to write down as many details about my MC and then her 'current' world as I could. (I'm an over-planner, so there was quite the list.) But this was good. I learned to prioritize. I used different colored highlighters, grouping details by importance. 
I know it sounds stupid, even silly, but I needed to see what was pivotal at the opening...not the beginning, which happens to come before the opening scene. Ahh...

The beginning is where you birthed your idea, your story world, your main and supporting characters, their dislike, their backstory, etc... It's the place you get excited about the story you have to tell. It's not the opener. I had never noticed that before. Once I did, I began to feel the GROUNDED STABILITY I needed to write a proper beginning to tell my tale.

Have you ever dickered on where and how to being your story? How did you work it out?


  1. I never have problems with beginnings - my middle always terrorizes me though!

    ...and that's NOT only in my writing life either...

  2. Great post Sheri! The beginning is so important! I think it's key to get feedback from others who know your story and can tell you how the beginning connected for them.

    I have tried several different options myself.

  3. Since I too am a "young" writer, my beginning has given me more fits than anything else. You have to pack so much into those first few all-important lines/pages.
    I've revised the start more than anything else, including deleting a prologue and revamping the voice of my MC to fit with the rest of the novel.

  4. Oh yes, I have. I usually end up cutting the first chapter, sometimes the first four chapters. I hate that it happens this way, but I can't help it. I always start the story too far back, but it's how my brain works. Perhaps if I outlined it might help. Maybe.

    Great post! It's always wonderful to come across advice that really makes sense.

  5. Great points! This makes so much sense. The lists are a great way to tear away the emotional connection to your words and see what is necessary. I might have to try that for my opening.

  6. I wrote a begining that I liked a lot. Then I wrote the rest of the book, went back to the begining, took it out, and rewrote the whole thing over again. I struggled wirth openings before untill I realized that I had to become more aqcuainted with my characters and the plot before I could really write it.

    Great post! I love Nathan's blog too.

  7. I've tinkered a beginning or three in my time. Though Foresight jumped out the gate with a bang and everyone loves it. :) And the first five of my other YA has gotten new reviews in the First Five group at YAlitchat.


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