Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great Beginnings--or so we hope

Good Morning, anyway it is here in the state of Utah. In fact, it's still dark outside and all I want to do is burrow under the covers and sleep another hour. Alas, that's not going to happen.

Today, I'm going to carry on with my comment on Liz's blog from Monday. She spoke of sagging middles. My problem comes a bit earlier than that. I write by the seat of my pants, so from start to finish, I write. When I'm done I start at the beginning and fill in any holes or sagging anythings, middles, scenes etc.

I have a problem starting that first sentence. The Great Beginning that's supposed to be the hook. Those all important words that hook and then reel in the reader. And your job after that is to keep them dangling - maybe tease them a bit, until the big bang at the end.

So I still have a blank page winking at me, has been all week. I've tried writing out my main characters GMC, then I did a full 9 page synopsis - something I never do. And the synopsis seemed to have worked, given me that 'Okay I'm ready to write' feeling.  I'm finally motivated and really want to start that page. I still don't know what I'll write for the first sentence, and it may--no I guarantee--it will probably change when I re-read my work. But at least I will get it down on paper today.

When you're stuck what do you do?


Cassy Pickard said...

Stuck! Yikes, Mary, I think we all have had that sinking feeling in our stomachs. I confess that I am a plotter. That doesn't mean I know the first sentence--not at all. But it does mean that I have to have a sense of where I'm going with the story and what I want to be sure to say. Ha! Call me a liar, for I have to do so many edits that I sure must not have known what I was doing anyway. In my last book I threw out the entire first scene and began a little later in the story--so much for perfect first lines.

Great topic. We all are told the first line, first paragraph, first page catches our readers. Serious pressure!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I don't think about first lines or ending hooks when I write the first draft. To me that part is just getting down the story.

Once the story is down (which ends up being mostly dialogue and action), then I go through and revise. It's the revisions that make a story come alive.

I go through first for setting and details. Then for senses and metaphors, etc. Then tweaking the dilague so it's witty (the more times I go through a manuscript, the better the dialogue gets). And finally I end with making sure every fist sentence is catchy and every last sentence has some kind of cliffhanger or hook or foreshadowing that makes the reader want to keep reading.

I think if you try to do it all on teh first pass, you WILL get stuck because it's too much think about and overwhelming. Just puke it out in the beginning....then make it shine :-))

Liz Lipperman said...

Like Cassy, I am a tried and true plotter. I always know where I'm going, but the "getting there" is sometimes tricky. As much as I wish I didn't, I am constantly editing my stuff. It slows down my writing, I know, but I'm like OCD about it. The only good thing is that the final edits are usually minor.

My very first manuscript is about a nurse who gets kidnapped and smuggled into Colombia.
The first 125 pages told the story of how and why she ended up in Costa Rica in the first place, then we had the kidnapping at the airport. If felt like two different stories. So, after going to a Donald Maass workshop, I threw out those first 125 pages and started with the kidnapping, high drama scene. It works way better and I was able to use back story flashbacks to get in what I needed about her story.

So now I have this great 55K word story that has my nurse meeting a chauvinistic doctor and working together with him in the end to avert a crisis involving a junkie who takes over the hospital. (I'm just not happy with only a romance. I always have to get crazy with my characters.)

Anyway, long story short, you're never married to the first part, or any part for that matter, of your story. That's the beauty of being the writer. We get to do whatever we want.

Hang in there, Mary. That first line will flow out of you when your life settles down. For now, you are doing a much better thing, being there for a friend.

In the meantime, if you hear of anyone looking for a great short story for an anthology abut medical people - let me know. LOL

Lindsay said...

Mary, I can sympathize with you, even if I can't spell. Since National when I pitch the full, now with a different title, I've rewritten the beginning 5 time before I found the problem. Started to early.
I have more problems with the beginning than the middle.
What if you write what you THINK you want then the next few chapters. Then go back and take a look at it, like Cassy said in her first comments. Ask youself, "Do I really want the story to start here".
And be thankful you're using a computer, not typewriter and paper. Makes changing things so much easier.
Patience is a virtue, except for writers. Then it can be a pain.
And I've got faith you'll find it.

Cassy Pickard said...

Sometimes I feel like the "Little Engine who Could." I think I can, I think I can... We all share the challenge of getting everything finally down. Then changing parts of it, again--again--again.

I do confess that I actually like editing. Well, most of the time. At least I have something to work with. The blinking cursor on a blank screen can be intimidating.

Lindsay said...

Mary and Cassy, I know you can do it.
Try my problem on for size.
So far we've discussed my waist line, the sagging middle and Great Beginnings.
Today, Thursday for those of you lucky stiffs who aren't in the US, while driving to work I got to thinking. Yes, I know, men and driving and no I didn't get lost. Anyway, my full is done-rough draftwise. I like it. It works. Keeps the reader guessing. BUT. What if near the end. Last guarter to tenth I have one of the bad guys escape and meets up with the villian. Someone is killed. Someone escapes. Who is it?
At least I don't have much to change in the beginning 3/4, just a little here and there. Then add a few more chapters.
When is enough enough? Or is it?