A writing thought came to me as I was gardening a couple of weeks ago. It probably happens to you too, or when you’re out for a walk, or washing up, or hoovering. Your physical self is engaged in an easy, repetitive activity, leaving your mind free to wander.
My gardening thought was: “Why do I always start weeding a particular flower bed in the same corner every time?”
One answer I came up with was that it’s the bit nearest the house so that anyone looking out – mostly me – can see that I’ve done some weeding! Then, a few days later, (because of the rain and not being in a weeding mood) I go back to do some more, notice that the first cleared bit has a few new weeds in it and start there – again!
The writing equivalent? Well, that’s something that I’ve heard a lot of writers suffer from – rewriting and rewriting and rewriting the opening to a story.
Please feel free to blame me! I know I’ve written about how important the opening of your story is: protagonist, problem, in media res, no backstory etc etc. So, the inclination is to try and get that opening as perfect as possible.
Agonising over the first few sentences is not worth the effort – at this stage. Get the rest of the story written and then come back to the beginning. You might well find that you need to change it anyway, because of how the story has panned out, so all the agonising would be time wasted!
With novels, it’s often only once you have finished the story that you can really identify what needs to go in the first chapter. I’ve heard tales of writers being told by agents or editors “Your story really starts at Chapter 4”! Not what you want to hear if you’ve been slaving over those first three chapters!
How to start your story is something you can mull over whenever you have a few spare minutes: in a queue, on a journey, on a walk, on waking up, in the bath. Just make sure you are either very good at remembering what you’ve just thought of, or you have a notebook or recording app close at hand!
Thank you to everyone who’s bought my book A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. I haven’t been able to do much personal publicity in the past few weeks but, as pandemic restrictions are lifted, I’m hoping to get out and about a bit more.
Thank you, too, to those of you who’ve written to say how useful you are finding the book. Could I ask a favour, please? If you could add your comments to the Amazon page, it would be really helpful. Thank you.
I’ve been working on the follow-up book. I haven’t got a title as yet (suggestions are welcome) and I hope that will be published later this year.
Last month’s Workshop on Deep Point of View generated the most comments I’ve had on any of my recent workshops – thank you. It’s always pleasing, of course, when you receive positive feedback but, more importantly, it tells me I’m choosing writing topics that are proving useful. One writer has requested a workshop on Endings – so that’s the topic this month. Click here. And there’s a quiz, too, this month, on famous book endings. Click here.