Never begin at the beginning #IWSG #amwriting
[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]
This month’s awesome Co-Hosts: Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!
Check out our IWSG homepage. Find out the news on the theme of the next anthology. I’m terribly excited! And as always, thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂
Beginnings are always messy for me. I think one thing. It plays out an entirely different plan then I wanted. Don’t you hate it when you want a scene so bad but it just isn’t the right place to start?
Do you make it right? Can you? How do you make a scene right when it feels sort of wrong?
I wish I knew. I’m so insecure this month. I have a myriad of scenes written for this story and it was really fun to create the pieces before the puzzle snapped together. What I struggled with so desperately were the edges of the puzzle. The very beginning if you must, and I wanted this darn gray cat to fit. 🙂
In any case, I’m offering tips today on what I found seemed to help me fit the puzzle together.
Here goes all. Four tips to get into the right first scene.
- Time and place.
My father taught me this one. He always loved books that began with a quick reference and dropped the reader right into the world. Draw the picture. Then add the conflict.
- Emotional Appeal.
This piece has always been my favorite when I watch movies. If I don’t connect in the first scene with someone, and even in the first five minutes, I turn it off. I leave the room. I have to investment in a character and feel something for he or she.
Share the character goal or what they aren’t able to obtain. Give a snapshot of the character and why they want what they want so bad.
Whatever your genre is or the message you want to say, make the opener count. I even read once to let the beginning reflect the way the ending plays out too. This time, I did write the ending first, so that helped me tremendously.
What works for you? Do you ever write the opening scene out in different ways? That’s what happened to me. Then whichever one ignited my writing fury, I went there. I picked that one.
A great resource to check out for additional tips on first scenes.
I did digress from the question this month. I think I’m still trying to find my way as far as publishing is concerned and I hope one day, I’ll figure it all out 😉
Posted on September 5, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.
Excellent tips, all of them.
I’d also add: revisit the opening after you’ve written the ending. There are things that can be changed and foreshadowed to better effect.
Thank you so much Damyanti 🙂 I really like that tip. 🙂
In the last book I tried to query, agents kept saying I started in the wrong place. So for this next book I wrote, I was scared to death I did the same thing. I spent an entire month debating whether or not start with chapter one or two. UGH. I must have gotten it right!! Whew!
That’s really great to hear! I wish you continued success Jennifer and may your every dream come true 🙂
Action is important but connecting with that character right away is key. I’ve seen enough submissions and edited enough books now that I think all writers struggle with the first chapter or two. It shows in the writing.
Thank you Diane. It could be performance anxiety too 😉
Great tips Erika,
to be honest I love when the action starts quickly,to get my attention.But that is not a rule, if writing style is good, that could attracted me 🙂
Thank you Ben. We all have our own preferences and triggers 🙂 Have a great rest of your day 🙂
I need an emotional grabber or question in the first couple paragraphs, or people lose me as a reader. There are some stories where I’ve tried 5 or so different starting places, and one I didn’t know how to start until the end was complete. It’s gotten easier and I don’t question as much. There’s just an intuitive sense of “this is the spot.” Best of wishes with your troublesome beginnings!
Thank you Crystal. You are always so kind 🙂
All your tips are spot on. I like to lay out the conflict early, in the first scene if possible. I try to describe the time and place as the conflict evolves. It’s what I like to read, so it’s what I write.
Your tips are great. If those first chapters don’t grab and make the reader care right away, they aren’t doing their job. Finding the balance between emotion, scene setting and ‘action’ is so hard, though.
I literally cannot remember which draft my first scene in the book I’m editing is on, it’s that high. You know what a good sign is? If you’re so worried about your first scene, that you’re super insecure about it, and keep working it until it’s perfect. I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.
Very good points. The opening of a story is crucial in hooking a reader. I’ve come up with some good openings, but it’s often difficult for me to keep things going after that. For me the endings are the toughest. The right ending can make a story strikingly memorable or just ho-hum forgettable.
Tossing It Out
Good tips! Hopefully I’ve learned to do those.
What a great post, Erika. I’m just working on the opening scene. You’ve given me a lot to think about.
First chapters are so hard! I’ve spent ages trying to get them just right. Finding the balance between introducing the characters and jumping into action can be a tricky one for me.
Number three is usually first on my mind. “What does the character want and what is keeping them from it?”
I’ve gotten a lot better at my openings over the years. I used to have the issue with cramming a lot of back story into the early pages. Now I’m better at deciding “is it really important to have that?” Most of my really good openings end up being flash fiction and don’t go beyond that.
Oh! That’s a really good point Loni. Backstory can bog it all down 🙂
I hope this doesn’t sound too silly, but I Google it. Once I’ve reminded myself of what I need to do I get to business. A refresher does wonders. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Great list. It’s not easy to include all of those in the beginning, but when you do, the story comes out alive.
This is a wonderful list! I am more of an organic writer, and I find that my beginning usually identifies itself…but it often does so as a result of a lot of word-cutting!
It is hard to decide where to start! I usually imagine the story as a movie- what would be the opening scene. The first book I wrote, I had a mother and son driving down the road. In movie form, that seemed boring, so I had the engine fail and sent them walking in the rain.