Just Write: Beginnings


Plato once said that “the most important part of a work is the beginning.”

Planning is key.

I think for most of us mere mortals, this philosophy holds true.  Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way – through humbling failure.   I have always hated the process of outlining, but I understand now that it is an evil that must be endured – for the greater good of humanity.   At the same time, I think that the spirit of Plato’s words can be applied directly to the physical beginning of a work:  the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter.   They set the tone for the entire body of work.

A few months ago, I accepted that my WIP  needed a major overhaul.  To do that, I had to suck it up and draft an outline.

It was painful.

It gave me a nasty rash.

It took three tries to get it right, and even now, I think “right” might be an overly generous description.

There’s only one problem.

I didn’t know where my story – Anna’s story – begins.

I know where she’s going.  I know why she’s going.  I know, for the most part, how she is going to get there.  I just don’t know where she begins her journey.

That’s a pretty significant problem, eh?  It sort of reminds me of the third Indian Jones movie – The Last Crusade.  You know, the one where the senior Dr. Jones has spent a lifetime plotting a map that will lead him to the Holy Grail, only to fail to figure out where his quest will begin?

That’s where I am at right now.

At the beginning.

Still.

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Author: Peggy Isaacs

This is me. Is that you?

11 thoughts on “Just Write: Beginnings”

  1. I know exactly what you’re dealing with, beginnings and endings are tough for me. I think I changed my beginning chapter twice as much as I changed the overall storyline in my WIP. What helped me kind of narrow down the choices was knowing I wanted to open with a scene that showed the difficult choice the protags have to make. I knew I also wanted to have it be a little heavy with action and intrigue. I went from there. It still took me a long time to finally get to where I think it should be starting…but I’ve said that before, too.

    Good luck.

  2. I usually go with the calm before the storm, but most writers say start as close to the inciting event as possible or even with the Incing Event.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  3. I know you can do it. The planning and outlining comes more naturally the more you do it, I’ve found. Possibly rash-free next time even 🙂

    1. I sure hope so. I actually wrote this blog and then had a breakthrough of sorts yesterday after my last final. I think I’ve got it figured out. I sat at lunch and wrote a rough outline of the opening scene on the back of my last sociology paper.

      1. excellent example of recycling. I’ve had that happen, whee it seems to be enough to articulate the problem, that doing so helps you sort it out. To me, that’s a wonderful thing. Glad to hear it’s progressing well.

  4. I applaud you for keeping at it when others would have thrown in the towel; it will make it so much sweeter when it all falls into place.

    Are you working with a beta? You might enlist a friend (whether they’re an avid reader or a fellow writer) and go over it with them. I did that with my WIP when I was stuck on pacing issues and worrying about whether my outline made sense; my friend came over, we went through it and she pointed out inconsistencies, pacing problems, and more importantly, offered solutions!

    You need to have an outside eye look at it, someone who’s invested in you and your story (i.e. not some critic group), but someone who genuinely cares about this project and about you seeing it through.

    We’re much too close to our babies to see them objectively; if you bring in a friend, they might see something right in front of you that you’ve missed this whole time. 🙂

    Good luck!

    1. I do belong to a writing group (they are my friends, too) and they are really good to bounce ideas off. They are quick to call me out when something doesn’t work. I have three different ways the story can begin. I just don’t know which one works best. I am going to write all three, and have the group give me their opinions. I actually feel really good about the rest of the story. It’s just the beginning that is giving me fits. And you are right – we are just too close to look at them objectively.

      Thanks for the advice. I appreciate any and all I can get!

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