Monday, January 9, 2012

Is it the Beginning of the End?

...Or the end of the beginning?

With my first novel, I rewrote the opening soooo many times. It's because my story kept changing. I was a pantser, and didn't have anything outlined. So I ended up wasting so much time redoing parts of the story I had previously polished and perfected. Over and over and over again.

I've learned my lesson.

This time around, with the advice of a dear friend, I vomited my whole WIP out from start to finish. No more wasting time rewriting. I know how it needs to start and that is that. (You can read that beginning here)

I wanted to do a post on beginnings because I find my whole first experience PRETTY COMICAL. I'm going to paste three different openings that my first novel displayed at one time or another. And I don't mind if you laugh because, yes, each of them could be completely different stories.

Here's take one of my first draft:

I’ve always known someone was watching me. At least I was pretty sure someone was watching me.

Let me explain.

I’m crazy. Not crazy in the sense that I do wild, foolish, idiotic things. Crazy in that I’m mad, insane. I hear voices and see things. Things I know shouldn’t exist. Or should they? It’s hard to tell when you’re delusional. 

Okay, ready for take two? 


I heard my name spoken over the hum of the car. I glanced to Ricki, who was on her phone, texting. My eyebrows pulled together as I continued driving.

Clara… the voice whispered again. My heart accelerated and the steering wheel became slick beneath my palms. I checked the rear-view mirror. A semi-truck followed behind, not tailgating, but closer than I wanted. I looked out the open window. Was the voice coming from outside?

Blinding white light suddenly flashed into my vision, searing through my mind like a hot blade. I screamed, clutching my head, feeling as if my eyeballs were about to burst.

Take three?

My footsteps pounded down the sidewalk, urgent. I didn’t have much time. The storm would be here any minute. I darted around the busy shoppers and dashed into the restaurant where Mom worked, panic gripping my throat. Mom was behind the bar, wiping the counter.

“Mom!” I yelled.

The sea of customers didn’t flinch. They ignored me, like always, their eyes passing through me as if I were a pane of glass.

You’re not going to make it.

I felt my mouth quirk up to one side. “Wanna bet?”

I pushed my way through the crowd, grateful for the presence of his voice. The feel of him inside my head was like chocolate. Smooth, comforting.

It isn’t safe for you to be out. There’s nothing you can do for your mother.

Gritting my teeth, I shook my head. I had lost Dad to the storm and wasn’t going to lose Mom too.

I dug my fingers into Mom’s shoulder and forced her toward me. The usual look of confusion traveled over her face before a hint of recognition hit.

“Clara, what are you doing here?”

“No time to talk.” I dragged her from the restaurant like a mad bulldozer, ready to flatten anything in my path.

It’s here, he said. Clara, you need to run.

I peeked over my shoulder and stumbled. The familiar dark cloud moved toward us, gliding down the street like poison. Crap. We were too late. I shoved Mom into the car, the hair on top of my head crawling. Within seconds, we were immersed in the dark fog, the chaos churning, curling along the windshield. My heart sped and the steering wheel became slick beneath my palms. Outside, people came to a chilling halt. Faces slackened and eyes went blank.

Funny, huh? (it's also fun to see that I think my writing has improved since these drafts)

I've come across several writers that believe beginnings should be written last. I guess it depends on how you work. What about you? What do you do?  Is there some secret that the rest of the writing community is hiding from me? *winks*

Red. Head. Out. :D 


  1. Doubt there's a magic formula, but I've written most of The Year of Lightning in order. I'm a hardcore outliner, though, so a lot of the experimentation and world-building happens as I outline. (you know that, though, having seen my Great Wall of Sticky Notes, lol).

  2. When I get my beginning FIRST, I know it'll stick.
    But every once in a while, it take me a LONG time to figure out WHERE my story starts.
    My first two novels started PAGES sooner than they should have.
    Hopefully, I'm better now ;-D

  3. First chapters are my writing nemesis. I've written three books and I had to rework the first chapter of all of them...several times. I'm jealous of people who can nail it the first time. I wish I wasn't a panster. It makes revisions hellish.

  4. I always write in order. Always. Also, my books stay pretty well in tact. Of course I edit, tweek, tighten, but the basically stay pretty much together through my revising process.

  5. I write a prologue which I usually end up scrapping, lol. But by the time I get to chapter one, I have a firm grip on what I want to happen. :)

  6. Argggh! I love all those beginnings. So tough. The first one will always feel right to me, but they are all great ;) Fun post! I never imagined anyone NOT starting at the beginning. I guess they don't film movies in chronological order either though...... :)

  7. I have the same problem. I think I wrote, edited and reedited my first three chapters over a gazillion times ( a slight exaggeration! :) only to finally scrap them completely and re-do from scratch... what a waste of time that was!
    Look forward to following you :)

  8. Aloha Morgan,

    So, OK, you gave permission, so yes I was laughing reading the three beginnings, and only in part because they are sooo different. I, too, have fallen victim to false starts only to wonder three months later why I can't get past Page Seven :)

    PS... thanks for the kind comments :)

  9. Brilliant! (I love the third one though... Brill!)

  10. Haha, I like to wait and see what people say before commenting. They are all very wise :-)

    As for me, well, I haven't been writing long, but I've found that I like to start at the beginning and see where it takes me. Though I run into a problem... I've kind of been outlining as I go, and then I'll get stuck, and write to that point and not know what to write next.

    I've started and finished one novel (that I've decided I'll need to go back and re-write entirely from the beginning, since my writing has really gotten better) gotten halfway through another (which I'll also need to re-work) and now I'm outlining a third that I feel really good about. but I want to get the outline DONE completely before I go in to write, so I don't get stuck.

    *sigh* sorry for the essay here, my answer is, I start at the beginning, and for the most part, it seems to stick once it's done :-)

  11. I like Cassie's idea for a prologue! To write it just to know what happened before the beginning, ha ha. I did that with the ms you have now, actually! Scrapped the whole thing, but I'm still so glad I wrote it! Beginnings are hard for me, I sometimes have to do a lot of rewriting, even after I've plotted everything out! I like that first one of yours that you showed. About the protag admitted she's insane. Awesome!

  12. I usually have a good idea of all the scenes I need before I start writing - that way I can write the scenes in order. It's easier on my brain that way.

  13. My experience so far sounds a lot like what you described for your first novel -- tons of rewriting. I'm trying to be better at plotting now, but I usually end up writing the first chapter twice -- once at the beginning, once after I've written it completely out and want to give it the most impact it can have.

  14. Wow, all three of those give such a different tone. That's really cool though.

  15. I like to write my books as they come. With my first book, I wrote the end then the beginning. Second book, I wrote straight through from start to finish. It was a trip. I like that way best. But whatever sparks the fire for the book, start there and continue as inspiration or the plot takes you.

    Yet, for the sequel to my WIP, I will be writing the end first cuz its all planned in my mind. I will keep going from there.

    It's all different. There's no rhyme or reason behind it. No set rule. Just write! :)

  16. I don't think you can really know your story until you know your story, so I try not to worry too much about that first chapter until I finish the last. I love seeing your three versions! I'm kind of partial to #2.

    1. Thanks, J.H.! I agree with not worrying about the beginning until you know your story. I learned that the hard way ;)

  17. Hey ... I've read those beginnings somewhere before ;)
    And loved them all :)

    I esp. like the first one as I hear the voice loud and clear, and love the wry 'It's hard to tell when you're delusional' line.



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