Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In the Beginning

I think we can agree that getting the right beginning to a story sometimes rates up there with going to the dentist. It’s something we know we need to do, but we dread getting it done. 

We worry that if we can’t find a great beginning for our story, it's doomed. So we flail around trying to
come up with the right beginning and presto! bingo! Suddenly we realize we not only don’t have a great beginning, we don’t have a great middle, or a great ending.

Let’s stop and take a deep breath.

While a great beginning is important, the fun part of writing is that creating the perfect beginning to your story doesn’t have to come first. You just need to find it before you write The End. Sometimes it appears in your head like a gift from the gods and sometimes you have to dig and dig and dig to find it.

This is why it’s important not to get hung up on finding the “perfect beginning” before you write anything else.

When I was writing Lady Runway (http://www.gingerhanson.com/bookshelf/ladyrunaway/), I started the story in half a dozen different places. In one early rendition, the heroine was in a mail coach, then I decided to take her off the coach and move her into the coaching inn. Next, I came at it from the hero’s point of view and wrote a series wartime diary excerpts. I also tried putting the hero at the coaching inn before the heroine arrived. 

None of these openings felt quite right. 

Lady Runaway is a historical romance and traditional publishers of romance want the hero and heroine to meet in the opening pages. I was trying to nail that requirement, but the story didn’t lend itself to a first chapter meeting. When I tried to hook them up too early, I ended up with way too many flashbacks later in the book.

If I didn’t want a story riddled with flashbacks, Riana and Dev would have to meet later than the opening scene. In fact, they don’t meet until Chapter Four.

Instead of meeting Dev in Chapter One, the story begins with Riana opening the door to her nemesis. The reader is with Riana as she deals with the villain and makes her escape. 

The version with all the flashbacks did not get a contract, but the version I decided worked best did. Nor do I remember one reader or reviewer who complained that the hero didn’t show up early enough. I believe I found the right opening for that particular story. My many opening scenes weren’t wasted, either, because they became useful back stories.  

With luck, you’ll always find the perfect beginning for your stories. If not at the beginning, keep writing, it’ll probably sneak up on you.