Beginning Your Beginning

5524669257_ab67585fd0_zYour fingers are itching to get to the computer. (Or notebook, or typewriter, or cave wall. Whatever your thing is.) There are so many ideas and worlds and people swirling inside that creative head of yours that you feel you’ll explode if you don’t let some of them out.

I know. I get it. You’re anxious to start, anxious to explore. When I’m about to start a new project, I’m always in a rush. Putting on the breaks and slowing down to actually think is not something that comes naturally to me. I tend to rush head-first into projects.

It is the nature of the impatient writer. You’re anxious to get it written, to get it out, even if it ends up being a little sloppy. And that’s fine – this is the first draft, after all.

However, first draft or no, there is one section that you should take a little bit more time with. Your beginning. More specifically, your first couple of scenes.

During the first draft, I almost never go back and re-write scenes. I save that process for the second draft and revision stages. But it will usually take me a few tries before I let the first scene be.

So before you open your laptop (or find the nearest cave) here is something to keep in mind:

Your beginning will set the stage for the entirety of your novel.

Everything that happens from this point forward will be influenced, in however small way, by this small point. Your beginning will create a domino effect that will ripple through the novel.

It helps set the stage, the characters, the setting and the mood, not just for the reader – but also for you.

Now, what are some things to consider when crafting a good beginning?

Character.

This is fairly obvious. If possible, you should try to introduce your MC in the beginning. Tell us who they are, what they are like. Are they good or bad? Serious, or light-hearted? We obviously aren’t going to know everything about them, but we should have a general idea of what they are like.

Plot.

Unless you have started your beginning too ‘early’, your opening should have some relevance to the plot. It can be kind of tricky to figure out where you should begin, and should be given some thought.

Setting.

What world does the story take place in? Earth? Mars? A distant planet, or a Fantasy Kingdom? Perhaps a world where marshmallows are the dominant race? Whatever it is, it is important that it is established in the opening.

Expectations.

Finally, ask yourself: what kind of story am I writing? When you come up with an answer, make sure you portray that in your beginning. If your story has a lot of high-profile action, consider opening with some form of action.

At this stage, your reader is going to be forming opinions about your story, including what kind of story they should expect. You certainly want to surprise them, but you want to make sure you don’t give the wrong impression. This will lead to disappointment.

Whew. That’s a lot to put in such a short amount of space, isn’t it? But it’s important to take your time on it – your story will thank you later. This is your reader’s first introduction to your story, after all. And it’s important to remember that it’s not just theirs – it’s yours as well.

For more reading about beginnings, I would recommend K.M Weilend’s “Structuring Your Novel”. I’m not all the way through it yet, but it’s been a great read so far!

What about you? How would you say is the right way to ‘begin your beginning?’ Is there anything that you’d like to add?


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