Our heroine noticed a trend in the writing communities on Twitter lately, dear Reader. Writers are working, reworking, restructuring and rewriting the beginnings of their work. Why? Because it’s crucial to grab the reader’s attention straight away. We form and reform the first lines, the first scenes, trying to set a hook that will catch hold of the reader.
One of the problems with doing this is getting so close to the material that we can no longer see it objectively. We discussed beta reading, a powerful tool when this happens. Fresh eyes see things we no longer can. Taking a step back from the manuscript, giving it and yourself room to breathe, is important. So is momentum. Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated you put it completely away.
There are many ways to keep your writing momentum. If you want to stay with the project, you can try Johanna Harness‘s Big Board or even standard note card processes to get a view of the greater picture. Step away from the project by writing something else, perhaps. Flash fiction is my choice, a routine diet of shiny new words and stories. Some prefer outlining another novel, writing poetry or working on a short story. Keep that writing ball rolling.
I’m here to give you another option, perhaps one to supplement your writing momentum. We dealt with this concept in a past Forum called Grab Their Attention. Here are some more links that deal with opening scenes. The writers share good ideas. You may find inspiration in them, something that gives you the delicious a-ha experience that causes you to dive back into your project.
C. Patrick Schulze shares some Tips on How to Create Your Opening Scene in his blog This Business of Writing. (It is available in podcast form as well.) In it, he asks the important question, “So, just how might one go about creating that initial burst of excitement?” He answers his question by detailing twelve ideas that may spark something for you.
Wordplay, K. M. Weiland‘s blog, has an article titled 9 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginning. She starts the article by confessing that she hates beginnings. Who better to speak to the subject, I ask you? She has successfully faced her demon, the opening scenes of a novel. Here she shares valuable advice.
James Scott Bell, on The Kill Zone, has two articles of note on this topic. The first was Garlic Breath, or What Not to Do on Your Opening Page. Taking the more positive approach was the second, How to Grab Them On Page One. Both offer terrific advice. You don’t want to miss these articles.
And now for some Tough Love: David Mamet’s Editorial Notes. He created a series for CBS called “The Unit” and this is a memo to the writers. The notes don’t specifically deal with the opening scene. Instead, they speak to every single scene. This is not for the faint of heart. He gets right down to brass tacks. It was a rough pep talk to me, so I wanted to share it with you.
I like to read these and articles like them when I need a kick in the pants. They’re a great way to keep your head in the game while taking the step back that can be so necessary. I read them, say “hrm” a lot and just let it all perk in my writing subconscious for a while.
Don’t let the necessary importance of the opening scenes hamstring you. Write it, take a step back if needed, keep your momentum and dive back in to fine tune it when you’re clear headed.
What process do you use?