New Beginnings

Not in a philosophical way. I really, really needed a new beginning for my newest WIP. The beginning wasn’t bad, but I have a tendency to add a little too much wordiness to my beginnings. I think it’s just part of my process as a writer as I get to know the story and the characters. I usually add a little more history and set up than is needed in the first few pages and at some point in my process of polishing, everything gets sorted out. The same was true for this novel.

I had a couple of extra paragraphs in the wrong place. They were on the first page, but they shouldn’t have been. They slowed everything down which is just about the last thing I want to do on my first few pages when I’m trying to hook my reader. So I took them out, rearranged a little of the dialogue so that we got to it quicker, and then put bits and pieces of those original paragraphs back in, but scattered throughout the first three or four pages. All the relevant information the reader needs is there, but now they receive it in a way that is more subliminal and less distracting from the action of the story.

Moral of my story today? Listen to your gut!!

For the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about this opening. I kept going back and forth in my mind that something was off, but then I would look at it again and decide to leave it. Still, my gut just wouldn’t let it go! All day, thoughts of my beginning would creep back into my brain, itching it and annoying me to no end. Finally, I decided to send it to a couple of close beta-readers who I know have been waiting impatiently to get their hands on this new WIP. I thought I’d get their thoughts and then make a decision about the beginning after that. But when I went to hit send, I just couldn’t do it. I knew the beginning still wasn’t right! I didn’t need them to tell me if they liked it or not because in my gut, I knew it had to change. I was fighting with my internal and *smarter* editor!

Last night, I sat down and worked on the beginning. The sense of relief was immediate. Finally, I was doing the right thing for my characters, listening to them and listening to their story. Ah. So much better! Today, I’m still thinking about those silly beginning pages, but now it’s with satisfaction and not annoyance. Bliss!


About the author


15 pings

  1. Layna says:

    Great post, Heather. Glad things worked out.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Thanks Layna! I’m sure there will be more work to do, but at least I feel better about it now!

  2. Janet Walters says:

    Heather, Beginnings can be hard. I usually spend as much time on the first three pages than I do on the rest of the book. One has to make sure to hit the action as it begins, one moment after some triggering event or one moment after such an event has occurred.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Janet, beginnings are hard! With every ms I’ve written so far, I’ve had to rework the beginning. It’s just my thing I guess.

  3. Rebecca Zanetti says:

    Those beginnings are fun, aren’t they? 🙂 Great blog post!

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog Rebecca! Beginnings are tricky, but when they’re good, they’re really good…

  4. Chris Bailey says:

    I relate! I know that sense of being locked in a dark basement, unable to proceed, until you tell your characters, okay, have it your way, and they open the door and let you out–

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Chris, you always have to listen to your characters. They’re the ones really writing the story, we’re just the manual labor, LOL.

  5. Shoshanna Evers says:

    Right on! I almost always go back and change the beginning of a story after I write the whole thing.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Shoshanna, I think the beginning never seems quite right because we know our characters so much better by the end of the novel. It only makes sense that the start would need a little tweaking.

  6. Jeff Salter says:

    In my first three novel ms., I’ve had the very same tendency you described, though I’ll bet my backstory (and whatever) was considerably more than your story had. I’ve tinkered with those three, but can’t arrive at viable solutions.
    So when I began my 4th novel, I decided to just plunk the reader down right in the middle of the conflict. I like that better, but I’m still getting ‘gigs’ from contest judges that I’m not allowed ANY backstory in the first chapter … and other writing LAWS carved in stone. Ha.
    My 5th ms. began the same way: middle of the conflict.
    For my W.I.P. (# 6), I also began with the conflict, but I decided to break another LAW and write it entirely in first person … since I was sick and tired of getting slammed by contest judges about POV shifts. No shifts in this baby!
    But, I’ve veered from your topic. Sorry.

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hi Jeff,
      With my first ms, I really had started in the wrong spot. Thankfully, I have a great group of critique partners that helped me see that. Once they put the bug in my head that I was starting in the wrong spot, I couldn’t let it rest until I had it starting in the right spot. I took out roughly the first 50 pages and only a small fraction of that made it back into the book. I highly suggest finding a writing group for the genre you write. It makes a world of difference to have people who know what they’re doing surrounding you. Good luck with your mss!

      1. Jeff Salter says:

        Having only been writing novels since 2006, I’m prob. still considered a newbie, but I was ‘handicapped’ by having taken a B.A. in English (i.e., Literature). In all those classic works we had to study in college — and all through school, for that matter — the author (typically) slowly set up the characters, setting, mood, hinted at the conflict, dangled the theme, etc. After you’d struggled through 110 pages of that, you FINALLY got to the plot.
        So I thought that’s what a novel was supposed to be like.
        Things change.
        Now, a story has to open with a dead body falling from the ceiling (I borrowed that expression, but can’t recall where from).
        I have readers who give me feedback, but (unfortunately) they differ so much that it’s hard to assess what to do. LOL
        Well, anyway, best to you and your efforts.

        1. hthurmeier says:

          We all have a lot to learn and a lifetime to learn it. I’m a newbie too, so I feel your pain about the learning curve. Persistence is the only difference between a writer and a published author. We’ll both find our way there if we keep at it long enough. Good luck to you too! Hope to see you back here again soon!

  7. Taryn Kincaid says:

    I think everyone probably does this. You are introducing your characters to yourself, more than you are introducing them to your reader. That’s what first drafts are for!

Comments have been disabled.