Tuesday, July 12, 2016

B Is For Beginnings

Jennifer talks about how you begin a story...

Beginning a story is not as simple as it sounds. You don’t just sit down and write. Well, maybe you do, depending on whether or not you like to plot ahead of time, but ultimately, some amount of editing is required in order to make sure you are beginning your story in the right place.

Surprisingly, at least to me, is that one of the ways agents and editors can easily spot an inexperienced writer is because they start their story in the wrong place. Just because the story in your head starts at a particular point doesn’t mean the story should actually begin there.

Oftentimes, the place you originally start the story is actually backstory, information that should be sprinkled through the rest of the story that tells the reader what happened prior to their meeting your characters. That part isn’t essential to the progression of the story.

Additionally, you want the beginning of your story to hook the reader enough so that they want to continue reading. While scenery is pretty and sets the stage, it doesn’t convince the reader that she should spend her valuable time reading your book.

I’ll admit to having a difficult time with this, and whenever I go back to my books, I always think I could have done it better. But, here’s the beginning of my book, Miriam’s Surrender. What do you think?

The line from Casablanca flitted through Josh’s head. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...” He fisted his hands at his side and closed his eyes. 
This morning, he’d hurried to work for a meeting with a new client. He’d worked on the presentation for weeks—a structural redesign of an Alumni Club for a local private school. It was different from most of the projects he had worked on before, and it sparked his creativity. They’d been awarded the contract and this morning’s purpose was to meet the client’s daily contact, the person Josh would work with throughout the span of the project. 
He’d walked into the red and black conference room of his architectural firm and froze. Sleek, black, flawless coiffed hair. 
No way. 
Ramrod straight posture. 
It couldn’t be. 
And as she turned and approached him, she’d glided. 
Oh crap. 
Miriam.

14 comments:

  1. Your beginning definitely makes me want to know why Josh reacts that way to seeing Miriam. Nice hook! :)

    In the first draft of my first book, the last line of the first chapter wound up being the first line of the story after going to a critique session where I was told my story started in the wrong place. Thank goodness for seasoned writers who are willing to give advice to newbies! :)

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    1. I love the openings of your books--I think that ends up being one of your strong suits.

      And yes, seasoned writers are soooo helpful.

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  2. I've read several novels recently that should have started half way through the first chapter and even, in one case, part way through the second chapter, as the first was nearly all backstory!


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    1. Exactly. That's why you need other people to read.

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    2. I would agree, except that several of these books were published by the 'big' publishers e.g. Simon and Schuster, and Harper Collins, and presumably had gone through their editing process!

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    3. I guess it really is subjective, then, since editors are people and have distinct opinions.

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    4. Again, I agree! I recently heard of one writer whose editor wanted her to include more of the hero and heroine's backstory in the first few pages. In the end, it seems to depend on the editor's personal views, and not on any 'rules' or advice about what should or shouldn't be in the first chapter. Is it any wonder we writers are confused sometimes!

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    5. Totally agree with you, Paula.

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  3. It's hard to find the right spot to begin. I tend to write things out and then trim, but I'm getting better. I had to toss two chapters of Stormy Hawkins before I found the right spot.
    I like your beginning, Jen. Makes me want to know their backstory!

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    1. I'm still working on the perfect spot to start. Usually what I come up with the first time around isn't the beginning. And thanks!

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  4. I like your opening. I think it's essential to have hero and heroine be at cross purposes in the opening pages before we go back to what created their problem. Yours makes me definitely want to read more.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. Yes, the conflict definitely sets the direction for the rest of the story and needs to be established early.

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  5. I loved the short sharp comments as he walks into the conference room. A brilliant way to introduce her.

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    1. Thanks! He was my villain in the previous book and was really fun to write.

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