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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Where to start?

   
Author Topic: Where to start?
ForlornShadow
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I've been trying to write a novel for months now. Most if not all of it will be written in first person with a few different point of views, kind of like The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I've got the middle and the end sorted out and have most of the novel written. The problem is I can't seem to figure out how to begin the darn thing. I have seven different beginnings (with more to come I'm sure), all of them usable and yet I'm hesitant about all of them. I feel like something is missing.

Anyone have advice on how to deal with something like this?
Please and thank you.

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EVOC
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You know the most simple tip everyone gives is to "start where the story starts."

Basically you need to evaluate what your story is really about and think about when that journey actually starts for your characters. That is "where" you want to start.

How you want to start is a little more tricky. Personally I am a person who loves to start with action. It is actually a style I learned after a first 13 critique here on Hatrack.

The fact that you have several opening already written that you feel are usable, but are hesitant on tells me that you might want to look at those starting points. What makes you hesitate on them? Do they all deal with roughly the same start point in your story's timeline? If so then I think you found the where to start, just not the how.

Maybe you take those opening to some trial readers. See who likes what opening and which one makes them want to read the rest of the book.

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Meredith
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If you know how the story ends, then you need to look at what opening--one of the ones you have or an altogether new one--really sets up the story you're going to tell. Try for a beginning which mirrors the ending, if possible. What's the payoff? That should be the big want at the beginning. Doesn't always work, but it's usually worth thinking about.

I second EVOC's idea about testing a few on beta readers to get some feedback.

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ForlornShadow
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Thanks to you both. I do have a starting point EVOC, that was the easy part. I think the problem is I want to set up the story but also not bore people to death with too many questions or too much explanation. I think having a reader look at them just might do the trick. I didn't think about that since most of my family and friends hate science fiction books so I stopped going to them for feedback. Thanks to you both again for the help, just what I needed.
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Robert Nowall
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I've been drawn to the notion of "start your story as late in the story as you can possibly manage."
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LDWriter2
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I have comments about this--I almost always have comments about everything here even when I don't get to typing them out.


But in this case I think most if not all of what I would have said has been stated. Some good advice here.

Robert's last bit of advice goes along with what I have heard that most beginning writers start too soon. About two to five pages too soon if I recall correctly.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by ForlornShadow:
Thanks to you both. I do have a starting point EVOC, that was the easy part. I think the problem is I want to set up the story but also not bore people to death with too many questions or too much explanation. I think having a reader look at them just might do the trick. I didn't think about that since most of my family and friends hate science fiction books so I stopped going to them for feedback. Thanks to you both again for the help, just what I needed.

This makes me think that your problem isn't so much where to start as how to avoid an info dump. So, what you need to do is figure out exactly how much information the reader needs to make sense of what's happening. Give them that much and not a word more. Trickle the rest in where it's needed. If some of it is never needed, well . . . don't include it.
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legolasgalactica
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Orson Scott Card had some great advice in the "Uncle Orson's writing class" section of this website. http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1998-10-29.shtml He details his 4 different attempts at writing beginnings for one of his books. Very insightful for me.
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rcmann
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Like Meredith said. it's always tempting to include more than necessary. We spend so much time making up these worlds, and we get excited about them. We want to share them. But sometimes the forest gets in the way of the camping party. You can always reveal more information in the next story. or the next, or the next.

For a starting point, I find it helpful to pretend that you are reading your own story to a kid as a bedtime story (bear with me, if it's not appropriate for a kid, just fake it). Close your eyes and come out with "Once upon a time..." what? Once upon a time there was a young man who was walking to work when he saw a little blue person. Or, Once upon a time, there was a beautiful frog who longed to become a stork. Or, Once upon a time there was a peculiar little man who liked to write strange messages on internet boards.

There's usually a point where the once upon a time would fit.

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