Good Beginnings

Last Friday, I talked about how it can be difficult to write well when you have to concern yourself with telling the story.

Well, I started rewriting this week, and made a small but potentially important discovery. In my earlier drafts, I did what almost every single blog post will tell you to do: ignore how badly it is written, and just focus on getting the story out. I set myself a word count to get out per day, and then I did my absolute best to get that amount in, even if it was crappy writing. No one writes a bestseller on their first draft anyway, and there’s no point in worrying over every word when you’ll just have to revise later.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles. — Shannon Hale

But now I’m at the point where I’ve got the plot and the characters figured out, and all I really need to do is work on the writing itself. So I tried a new tactic. I’m writing every day, because after doing NaNoWriMo in November and the Camp version in April, it just feels weird not to. But I’m not setting myself a word count goal like I did before.

Instead, I’ve brought out a stack of college-ruled loose leaf paper and my trusty pen, and I keep on writing and rewriting the beginning of each scene until I’ve found a beginning that both sounds good and feels right. Incidentally, once I have that, it’s been so much easier to write the rest of the scene, as if all it took to write well was to write a good start. Whether or not another draft will still need to follow this one, I don’t know yet. But hopefully this will go a long way towards getting my novel truly finished.

So if you find yourself stuck, either by the blank page or the blinking cursor on the computer screen, don’t feel like you HAVE to go with whatever start first comes to mind. Sometimes, all it takes to get unstuck is to simply cross off whatever you originally started with, and try again.

As for my own novel, I’ve got the prologue and part of the first chapter written. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue.

Seven Years Ago

The wind battered the snow like a cat toying with a mouse, and the doors of a small, decrepit barn shuddered in protest. Inside, two brothers finished evening chores, which consisted of caring for their two goats and five chickens. Leon Akail picked up two small wooden buckets by their rough metal handles as his younger brother pulled out an egg from one of the chicken’s hiding places under the straw.

“Ready, brother?” Leon asked as Petros set the egg inside the basket in his hand.

“If you are.” Petros stepped past Leon and threw open the barn door. A bitter gust of wind swooped in, ruffling up the boys’ brown hair.

Leon inclined his head in thanks, and lugged his two buckets out into the snow. Petros paused only long enough to shut the door firmly behind him. Then the younger brother strode past the elder so he could help Leon with the door leading into the ancient wooden house. This time, the gust that battered against them was warm, and smelled enticingly of the fish and fresh bread Leon’s wife had cooked up to celebrate her good news.

Leon slid inside.

Petros was about to follow him in when something caught his attention. He could have sworn that something gold had glinted out in the dark forest, but the source of the glint had shrunk back, preventing him from getting a second look. With a frown, Petros stepped inside and shut the door behind him.

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