As I revise my first draft, one of my challenges has been the fact that I am not a linear writer. My novel currently stands as a collection of documents, scenes that have been written out of order because that is the way they have developed for me.
My writing is a visual experience. I see scenes in my head, like a movie. The story begins when I put pen to paper but it's not the actual beginning per say. If I do my part, looking and listening, the story takes flight quite easily. However the assembling of these pieces into a cohesive whole is another matter.
For starters, I have been struggling with the question, "What is the start of my story?" It would seem obvious, "Start at the beginning..." but there's more to consider with this thought. It's not enough to merely introduce characters and set up a scene. I know I have to offer something more, a compelling read. In this regard, beginnings can present a lot of trappings for novelists. One has to be careful to avoid lengthy introductions, questionable use of tension (too much as well as too little) and sparing use of the ol' writer's friend, the flashback. If used ineffectively, any of these elements can turn into a stumbling block for readers.
Knowing all this, I have been reading through my work over and over trying to decide, what stays, what goes and what ultimately should be my page 1. It hasn't been easy. I've rewritten my beginning several times now, maybe even one too many. There's a frustration in admitting that.
I began writing this post ready to admit my disappointment, figuring something has to give and then I came to realize that maybe that something was me. I've placed a lot of importance on knowing my exact beginning and I had to ask why?
A part of me wants the beginning to be done, set in stone, perfect and yet another part of me knows this is a naive thought in the midst of a first revision. Thanks to fellow bloggers, I know I am not alone in this thought. They remind me that thinking like this gives no room to the possibility of discovering something new as I make my way through the revision process which is the goal at this time.
So I've decided to let go of knowing my beginning and moving on to another section of my manuscript. If I have any additional thoughts or movies in my head, I will just jot them down in a notebook for the next revision.
In the meantime, I just have to remind myself that some things written will serve me as a writer to understand my characters, most things written should serve the reader to want to turn the page but everything I keep should serve the story's plot.
Yes, just knowing all that makes for a good start.
What's your feeling about beginnings? How many times have you rewritten your novel, short story, blog post or email?