Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing a Great Beginning for 2012

A new year is like a blank page.  It's a time to write a new beginning.  Maybe set some goals so that by the end of the year, you are in a better place than where you started.  So how do you write a great beginning to a new year?  Let's think of it this way:  the year before you is a book you have yet to write.  In some ways, a book is all about the beginning.  Nobody will read a book through to the end if it has a crummy beginning.  Similarly, many resolutions or goals never make it past January.  So, how can you write a great beginning to the novel of 2012?

Start With the Action:
Many writers start their novels too early, making the reader wade through a bunch of boring until the action finally starts.  A great beginning for a book starts the moment something is different for the main character.  A reader really doesn't need a buildup to that moment.  Any necessary background information can be handled later.  But, to really grab a reader's interest, a writer needs to capture that pivotal moment at the start.  This really is a skill, and I'm a lot better now than I used to be.  Before, I could write an entire chapter, realize I'd started in the wrong place, and then have to use my friendly delete button.

Similarly, when writing the beginning of a new year, you need to start immediately with the action.  Make sure your goal is something that matters to you, and then, don't wait until tomorrow to begin the work.  Your pivotal moment is 2012.  You just have to decide how that moment is going to be different for you, then begin immediately to make it happen.  Unfortunately, life's delete button is not nearly so convenient.

Don't Get Caught in the Past:
Another reason you will lose your reader at the beginning of a book is by including too much boring background information.  Is it really that important to know the main character's full life story in the first chapter?  You must capture the reader's interest first, then, as you go on, you can fill in the necessary details.

To write a great beginning, you really must forget the past in a lot of ways.  Focus on your goal and what you need to do to achieve it.  Forget about how many other goals you've made and never accomplished.  Past failures can distract, discourage, and derail the plot of your life.  Yes, it is important to remember the lessons you've learned from the past.  But don't let the past be the focus or be the compass for your beginning.

Write With the End in Sight:
The two most important parts of a book are the Beginning and the End.  If a novel doesn't have a good beginning, I won't keep reading.  If it doesn't end well, the entire book is completely ruined for me.  I will usually remember a book through the filter of its ending and how it made me feel.  So, accordingly, it is very important to begin a book with the end in sight.  What is your goal?  Where are your characters and this action headed?  I don't like wasted words or scenes.  Every action and event should have a purpose to the plot and resulting conclusion.  I love a book when, after reading the ending, I can look back and understand and appreciate the choices the author made, even at the beginning, to prepare for the climax and that satisfying finale.

When beginning a new goal or venture, it is vitally important that you keep your eye on the prize.  What is it you want to accomplish?  The vision of you reaching that finale has to be so strong that it can carry you on days when you don't feel like trying anymore. You have to capture the dream of where you want to be next December and be willing to stubbornly replay that dream when you get discouraged. 

The page is blank; the pen in your hand.  How will you begin your 2012 Once Upon a Time?

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