Tuesday, April 12

Beginnings . . .

I had an idea the other night . . . just the seed of a new story and now it's filled my head and I'm itching to get started on it, but unfortunately, my "real job" is taking up every waking hour. So, I'm making notes and trying to stay awake later, after putting in 10- to 12-hour days editing, in order to piece this story together and to find exactly the right way to begin. It's hard because after you've worked on other people's writing all day, your only inclinations are to a) sleep, b) eat an entire pie, or c) completely veg out in front of some mindless TV show. I wish my inclination was to run on the treadmill or swim fifty laps over at the gym pool . . . at least that way I wouldn't feel like so much of a slug after twelve hours of copy editing.

I read a really great article over the weekend by a favorite author, Amy Sue Nathan, that I would love for you to read. Go check it out. Go ahead, click and read it.  I'll wait here . . . maybe I'll pop onto the treadmill for a couple of minutes or have a piece of pie or . .  . no, I'll work on my client's manuscript . . .

Oh, hi, you're back. Great. Good thoughts, huh? So many writers do try to keep their readers guessing about what exactly is going on. And yes, backstory is often a treacherous path, but I don't think that Nathan is encouraging us to info dump in the first scene of a story. Rather, she's saying that readers stay engaged in a story when they feel connected to the characters. Your reader needs to know your characters and your story in the first scene. No need to dump backstory, but put your reader in the middle of the action, right where the story is going to happen from the very first paragraph. 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Glass-Wives-A-Novel/dp/1250016568/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349266538&sr=8-1&keywords=Amy+Sue+Nathan


That is great advice, especially for someone like me--the queen of the info dump. My issue isn't trying to keep readers in suspense by not telling too much; my problem is giving the protagonist's entire life story in the first three chapters of the book. You can lose your reader either way--making them guess what's up in your story or burying them in too much backstory.

My editor, the amazing Lani Diane Rich has been known to  simply remove the first five chapters of more than one of my books and say, "Okay, start the story here!" It's usually the place where the heroine is in the action and not looking back at how she got there. It may have been gorgeous writing, but it was unnecessary writing. Sometimes though, I need to write parts of the story that don't belong in the book--it's backstory for me, not my readers.  Once it's out, I can go on and write the story.

Nathan says,
"In most reading experiences, readers today do not turn too many pages because of beautiful writing alone. They turn the pages because the story compels them to do so. From page one."
I love that thought! So, I'm focused on that great beginning . . . the one that will draw my readers in and make them want to stay with me.

8 comments:

  1. I love beginnings...they're so hopeful! And, although the sagging middle will be the death of me, I also love it, because it's where all the magic and growth and change happens. And the endings! Oh, those sweet endings...*happy sigh* Have fun with your beginning, Nan!

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    1. Me, too, Kristi! Sagging middles are magic too though and endings...well, endings rock! Thank you for stopping by!!

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  2. Excellent post, Nan! I love beginnings, too, and think Amy's right on the money.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I'm a devoted Amy Sue Nathan fan--love her writer blog and yes, she nailed this one. Holding her word to my heart as I start this new idea... <>

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  3. Omg I love LDR!! And thank you for the shout-out and most kind words! We're all in this writing gig together. xo

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    1. Amy, I'm so honored you stopped by! We are all in this together and often, we forget that or ignore it and then we miss out on so much. Lani is the best! Thanks for your great books and your great blog! Never stop, okay? Xo right back. ;-)

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  4. Wow, this is great. I want to get better at drawing the reader into my stories. Keep working at the beginnings (and middle and end) of your story.

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  5. Thanks, Carolyn! So glad you came by!!

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