Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beginnings




Carol Kilgore visits to tackle what we writers wrestle with, rewrite…

Once upon a time . . .
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive . . .

Beginnings.
We remember the perfect ones.
They seem so easy, so effortless.
Wrong!

For me, beginnings are the most difficult part of the story to write.
They’re not so hard to draft – we’re all excited to get those words down while we’re chasing after the latest Bright Shiny. But those first draft words are sly and deceitful. What was full of promise on Day 1 becomes dull and plodding when we’re back for a second look on Day 101.

Our mission is simple – entice the reader to turn the page.
Start with the first line. The first paragraph. The first page. The first chapter.
Think about words, tone, personality, content.

Think about pacing, building suspense. Surprise. Laughter. Whatever direction leads into your story.
Make the reader care enough to turn the page.
Cast your bright, shiny hook her way, and reel her into your story.

For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve tried to write a fast first draft. I go at a fair clip once I get my sea legs, but that doesn’t happen until I introduce the main characters and some (meaning more than two) of them interact. That usually takes between 20-30 pages before I’m comfortable.

During this time, it’s slow going. I write. Rewrite. Write. Rearrange. Write. Change some preconceived ideas. Write. And so on. I change the beginning again and again. Sometime during the process, the first lines start to gel. I only pick at a word here and there.

Each time I put on my writing hat, I move deeper into the characters and story. But I also go over and over these first pages each time.

In revisiting them each day, the prose becomes smoother, the ideas become more solid, the backstory and banter I didn’t think I included gets written out. But the most important thing for me is that I get to know my main characters better.

By the time I do move on, the beginning is as good as I can make it . . . for first draft.
Then comes the next draft. And the one after. They all go the same way. When I no longer spend more time on the opening than on any of the other pages, I finally feel like I’m good to go.
I continue to hope for a speedy first draft beginning with the first word. Maybe one day I’ll succeed. I wonder if I’ll miss the extra time with my characters?

How about you?
How do you handle the beginning?
Is it as difficult for you as it is for me?

I hope not.


You can find Carol here:




And check out Solomon’s Compass. Here’s the blurb:

A missing belt—her uncle’s prized possession. The lure of buried treasure. And a sexy former SEAL who makes U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell crazy. What more could any woman want. Right?

Taylor is in Rock Harbor, Texas, on a quest to unearth her uncle’s treasure—a journey far outside the realm of her real life. There’s one glitch. Taylor's certain the buried treasure was all in Uncle Randy's dementia-riddled mind. Now he’s dead.

Former SEAL Jake Solomon is in Rock Harbor under false pretenses to protect Taylor from the fate that befell her uncle and the other members of a tight circle of Coast Guardsmen called the Compass Points who served together on Point boats in Vietnam.

Jake is definitely not supposed to become involved with Taylor. That was his first mistake. Taylor is attracted to Jake as well, but she refuses to wait for him to locate the killer when she knows her plan will force her uncle’s murderer into action.

But the killer's actions are just what Jake is afraid of.


57 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing how you get your opening right. I'm like you. I have to revise it multiple times before I get it right and apologize for my critique partners for making them read it so many times. Wish I could draft the rest of the first draft quicker like you. Good luck with your book. It sounds good.

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    1. LOL! There are times I feel like a CP abuser, too.

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  2. This was a fascinating and very informative look at the writing process. Solomon's Compass sounds great, and of course, I love that it is set in Texas!

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    1. Everyone's process is different, but I'm happy to share mine. Texas is a state of mind :)

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  3. Yes! I can completely relate to this post. I've tried to fast draft, too, but seem to grow stagnant somewhere near the muddle. Beginnings have always been the hardest part for me. I think that's because I have soooooo many ideas I can't reign them in.

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    1. I think all those ideas are a big part of the problem for me, too. Before I ever begin to write, I usually have several ideas on the best way to open. Obviously, many of those don't work - LOL!

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  4. Hi, Theresa!

    I'm so happy to be here today. Thanks for hosting me and letting me hang with you and your friends for a while.

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    1. No problem, Carol! Happy to have you here. :)

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  5. Carol's been just about everywhere on the internet! I always enjoy learning a little more about her with each of my visits. As to fast drafting . . . that's not me, either. That's one reason I never do the NaNoWiMo. I'd go bonkers.

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    1. So far this month I FEEL like I've been everywhere! But it's still fun!

      I've never done NaNo because besides the holidays, Oct-Dec is major birthday time in our family and I'm always so busy. But you've given me an idea.

      If it ever works out that I have that first part done or almost done, I might try NaNo to see if I can finish or come close in a month. My first drafts usually come in 75-80K, so if I could get to the point where all I want to do is write so I can finally type The End, that would be an amazing 30-day accomplishment for me.

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  6. Beginnings are easy for me. It's the ending that's the hardest to nail, I think.

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    1. Maybe you should write my beginnings, and I'll write your endings! Endings don't give me half the problems beginnings do.

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  7. The beginning is tough for me too. Or at least it is with my WIP. I've already re-written the beginning about 10 times and I'm still not satisfied with it.
    Great post, Carol and Theresa!

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    1. I can easily relate to that, Julie. I just went through that with my WIP.

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  8. love to see Carol here! Beginnings are fun for me to write--its those sagging middles that really get me:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Middles are good times for twists and turns of plot and for really heaping trouble on the protagonist. And a good time for the antagonist to shine.

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  9. Carol, I am just like you! Beginnings are the worst until I find my stride. Actually, none of the process of the first draft is enjoyable. I just want to get it down on paper so I can do something with it.

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    1. I like the surprises that come along in first draft. Especially the good ones!

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  10. Lovely to see Carol here. And a fantastic post, too! Thanks Carol.

    Hi Theresa!

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  11. Ah yes, the trouble with the start. Wouldn't it be cool if we could start in the middle and then go back and write the beginning?

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    1. I've done that, too. Only I didn't know it was the middle at the time - LOL!

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  12. Hi Carol! Great post. I wrestle with the beginnings of my novels throughout the entire writing process. The beginning of a novel is never set until I am happy with the ending.

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    1. Endings by themselves don't usually give me a hard time. However, by the time I reach the end, much may have changed during the journey that affects the beginning. When that happens, I repeat the process again on Draft 2.

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  13. Beginnings can be tricky and, for some reason, more time consuming then the rest of the book.

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  14. I can sympathize. I write first drafts fast and the beginnings are what create the most problems for me. I try to leave it until the revisions, and sometimes it takes several rewrites until I get it to the way I want.

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    1. It's really good to learn I'm not the only one who writes this way.

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  15. I see the beginning as less of a hook and more of a doorway into the story. Beginnings usually come relatively easy. As a reader, I hate being dropped into the middle of a scene, so I'm not a fan of action opens. In action opens, the hook is how and what. For tone opens, the hook is who and why, and I'm all about character and psychological motivation. I do revisions even as I'm drafting. I've tried writing straight through (because I've been told I should), then revising, but I've been doing this long enough to know that's not how I get at my best work.

    ~VR Barkowski

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    1. My goal is for the reader to keep reading. To want to keep reading. And for most readers to keep reading, something has to happen, whether it's action, suspense, humor, language, tone, voice, characterization. But something needs to excite the reader. The possibilities are almost endless.

      I love how we're all different in the way we write. Once I'm grounded in the opening and the motivations for the beginning are set, I can't wait to see what happens next, even though I have a loose plot and a timeline. The characters always surprise me.

      So I like writing fast to keep the same feel and voice. Then I go deeper into character and motivation once I have the skeleton in place to hang them on.

      I'm good with most types of openings as long as they fit the story and I can glimpse the characters enough to know who's who. Those are the crucial points for me.

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  16. Hi Carol and Theresa,
    My only hope for beginnings is that the reader just moves ahead quickly without pondering whether it's a good one or not LOL.

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  17. I'm slow to start. I make myself do it and then revisit the first chapter later. I revise that the most.

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    1. I definitely revise the first chapter more than anything else.

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  18. I have to write beginnings a gazillion times before I get them right. Maybe a billion gazillion times... ;)

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  19. Hi Carol! Some great thoughts here on beginnings. Laughing at Karen Jones Gowen's above :)

    Beginnings come pretty easy to me (I find the middle hard). Once a beginning "feels" right to me, I usually can't bear to change it (unlike all the rest, which I might change a million times).

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    1. My problem is the beginning may feel right when I finally leave it, but it doesn't when I return. I usually know I'm done when I leave it for a good little while and it still reads right when I do return.

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  20. Beautiful Carol!! So fab to see you here at lovely Theresa's!! Yay!!

    Oh starting that first sentence is crucial for me! I can't move on until I write and re-write and re-re-write some more and still won't got to sentence two if the first one reads all wrong! LOL!!

    All the best with your Solomon!! Take care
    x

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    1. Fab to see you here, too, Old Kitty! We're alike on the opening. Thanks for the good wishes!

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  21. I think beginnings are VERY hard! But after a long, long time, I've learned to just write something and get going... because I can always go back and change it as many times as necessary :)

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    1. I would love to reach that point. Maybe with my next WIP. There's always hope!

      Great to meet you, Susanna.

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  22. I used to dump down the words and go. Now I tend to get 5k or 10k in and realize my characters aren't quite who I thought they were and I need to rewrite the beginning. I don't know how long this 'stage' will last :)

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    1. Yes! I have to go back and visit with them some more so they don't take off chasing after ghosts or reindeer or something.

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  23. That's interesting; I do the same thing. I often feel like the first half of my books get revised ten times as much as the rest.

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  24. Hi Carol! I always find writing the beginning of my story easy; but then, after a few thousand words into the first draft, I realize the beginning isn't as good as I'd thought!

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    1. LOL - same here, even though I thought it was first-draft good before. I can't speak for you, but I think for me it's due to learning more about the characters and focusing more tightly on the story. Not sure, though.

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  25. I tell ya, I'm really struggling with a beginning right now. Usually I'll just write through it, and not look back. I'm struggling with the balance of too fast an opening vs. too slow. Blech. Thanks for the advice. And your book sounds wonderful!

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    1. I had several different openings for Solomon's Compass. The one I thought was good to go went to the editor. The scene stayed, but it moved to the middle of the book and the opening changed entirely. To be fair, Solomon's Compass gave me fits from beginning to end. But I love the story. I'm glad you think it sounds good :)

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  26. Oh, I can sympathize, mate. I am exactly like you. The first few pages give me fits!! They never feel right. It takes a long time to craft those introductory words and characters in a way that makes me content. I get there. Yet every time I pull out a little more hair.

    Call me baldy!

    Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques
    http://www.margotfinke.com
    *Fluff up your pillows not your paragraphs!

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    1. LOL - Another baldy! Takes me a long time, too.

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  27. My beginnings usually come quite naturally, but occasionally because of what happens later in the story I have to change the beginning, and that is a really hard thing to do!

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  28. I feel for you. The things we go through for the story. It's not all bonbons and bubble baths being a writer :)

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  29. Thank you for hosting me, Theresa. I had a great time!

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    1. Carol, thanks for discussing beginnings. I love the comments your post generated.

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  30. Congratulations on your release, Carol!
    Beginnings are so exciting! The drafting stage I mean. I have to write fast or all the ideas disappear! Then comes the s l o w editing...

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