Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where to Begin?

One of the toughest things that I've found about writing fiction is finding a way to start off a story without coming off as too "nuts and bolts"-y.  I've heard the old novelist's adage urging to "show, not tell," but it's especially difficult to do so while setting up the meat of the story to come.

I've already tabled a couple of stories simply because I couldn't determine a good way to start them (yet--I hope to figure out a way to get those stories on paper eventually...or hard drive...or whatever).  The exposition took too long, or was too clunky, or was just flat-out boring for the reader when I went back through it.

Not to mention that my main job as a writer is to entertain the audience, and far too often I clam up and try to sound too "literary" when first starting a novel.  My writing style in blogs tends to be more conversational, but for whatever reason, when I sit down to start a novel, some crappy voice in my head comes out and tries to sound like a pale imitation of Charles Dickens, with a lot of formal, awkward language, and just a lot of boring stuff that somehow makes its way from my head to the page.  It's like diarrhea of the mind, only I'm not a kid or an old person; I'm just a twenty-something guy without a diaper.  I should know better.

There's that constant, nagging voice in the back of my head when trying to start that "this isn't good enough" or "it's total crap."  Until recently, that's just curbed the amount of writing that I could accomplish, a convenient excuse to play videogames or watch TV--it has to be PERFECT before I start writing! How else can I possibly live with myself!?

The answer's quite simple: just put fingers to keys and start, moron!  I wrote about ten pages of my novel yesterday, most of it introduction that's going to have to be reworked. Is it my best stuff? Not by a country mile.  Today, even before sitting down to write, I reworked a lot of it in my head to be a little less "hokey" and a little more entertaining.

But for now, it's at least a start, and it allowed me to polish off about fourteen pages of much higher quality stuff today.  I think of it like the first few brushstrokes of a painting; no one will probably ever see them, but they give the artist an idea of where to go next, and something to build on going forward.

What I wrote yesterday will almost certainly be reworked a number of times before I'm finished, but the important thing is that I sat down and wrote those pages, and going back to fix them is easier than filling ten pages with good stuff the first try.

I'll defer to a man far sager than I to explain it: in the words of Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, "Tempo is everything; perfection unattainable." That first chapter likely won't ever be "perfect" in the truest sense of the word, even after countless drafts and rewrites, but writing it out the first time gives me a chance to get in a rhythm, or tempo, as a writer, and to start producing a decent amount of content every day, content that will (hopefully) improve over time.

Of course, check back with me come editing time to see if I feel the same way...

Days: 2
Word Count: 7,069
Pages: 24 1/2

D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL.com, and is an aspiring author.  Follow me on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here).  E-mail me at djssuperblog@gmail.com.  You can also listen to my podcast (Bottle and Cans) here.

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