The Very Beginning: Actually NOT a Very Good Place to StartWritten by Stepper McCrery
The Very Beginning: Actually NOT a Very Good Place to Start
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You've heard/read/seen the scene. The young, innocent hero has an important story to tell, but laments, "I don't know where to start!" And the white haired, professorly mentor smiles patiently and says, "just start at the beginning."
Well, the 'beginning' is fine and good when being forced to backpedal after being caught in the lie you just told your Mom about your whereabouts last night, but it can actually be a very unfortunate place to start when writing a story.
Don't get me wrong. The beginning of a story is important. It's not just important, it's crucial! The beginning is the first time your reader meets your main character and decide whether or not they like him. The beginning is where you hook your reader, where you enter into that unspoken contract that you are going to deliver something rewarding at the end of this thing if the reader will agree to stick with you. It's where you establish your all-important tone, where you present your conflict, its where—well, its' where everything begins.
It's precicely because of its importance that the beginning is often a terrible place to begin. How many times have you begun to write something—a story or a letter or an essay for your professor—and you crumple and begin and crumple and begin again because it just doesn't feel right?
We can get so hung up on the perfect beginning—containing all of the important things mentioned above—that we choke before we even get going. When writing your story (especially the first draft!) it's far more important to just GET GOING!
"But Stepper", you say. "You've got to start somewhere, right?"
Write your beginning, but make it a beginning that you've written with an eye to throwing it away down the line. It's just a place holder. It doesn't have to be perfect—not yet. In fact, you probalby won't even know the best, most true way to start your story until you've finished that first draft. A story will surprise you. By the end, the story you told will likely be a very different story than the one you began. This is why most writers go back and re-write their beginnings once their story has shown it's true shape.
So don't be afraid of your beginning. Don't let it stop you before you've started. Feel okay about saying, "Jane had a dog that she never really cared for except for the way it kept the tiny people living in her carpet out of her drawer of unmentionables." Whatever you've got to do to get to the part you're excited to write!
Then KEEP WRITING!
Stepper grew up in the desert, but is a child of the rain. She lost her heart to Seattle (both to the place and to the boy who grew up there). She loves to write and draw, and used to get in trouble for doodling all over her homework. She graduated with a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Utah State University. She loves to sing, play the violin and guitar, and is learning the mandolin. She bakes a mean spice cake with pinoche icing, hates caramel, and has a real thing for old keys. But her very most favorite thing in the whole world is her cute husband and three amazing kids.
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