Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do You Put Too Much Pressure on the Beginning...From the Beginning?

Writers hear it all the time from agents, editors, readers, other writers, aliens, robots, etc.: Great writing has to hook readers from the beginning to keep them reading to the end.

Don't stress out too much about direction in the first draft.

And yes, this advice is true. Good writing hooks readers from the get-go, and great writing keeps readers hooked all the way to a satisfying conclusion. However, many writers have trouble separating the finished product from the first draft. Many writers have trouble releasing themselves from the pressure of writing an amazing first sentence/page/chapter, so that they can finish the first draft as a result.

Do you put too much pressure on the beginning...from the beginning?

The First Draft
The first draft is called the first draft, because it's assumed there will be more drafts. These other drafts help good writing turn into great writing. In these other drafts, the author will do things like cut the first 50 pages--or flip scenes--to start a novel where it should start.

As such, I want to give all writers who stress out about their beginnings (and middles and ends) during the first draft a piece of advice: Write first, revise later.

Find Your Way
Some of my best poems have evolved from lines that I wrote in other failed poems. Or I've written 30+ lines to cut it down to 10 (and find publication). In college, I wrote short stories and found the same process worked for me.

I'd write 30 pages and find that maybe 5 pages were worth reading. The tricky part of this process is that those 10 lines or 5 pages were rarely in the beginning, they'd be in the middle or near the end--when I was finding my way through my own thoughts.

You see, sometimes we need to write to figure out what we're trying to write (even if we think we know what we're trying to say). So please, don't trip yourself up trying to figure out the best opening sentence ever during your first draft. Just start writing and let the words fall where they may.


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Jack Dog said...

Exactly. I think it's easier if you start with para 2. Write para 1 and that all important opening sentence later. Otherwise you never get started.

Nicole Pyles said...

Good point!! It's so funny, I recently finished a book recently that seemed to focus so much on everything, but the END. The ending was so disappointing. So, to only focus on the beginning as a writer is just forgetting the entire book! You may capture a reader, but if you can't KEEP a reader that isn't good!