The Beginning Bump

I don’t know about you, but for me the beginning of a new book is the hardest part to write. When inspiration strikes it’s usually in the form of a vague story idea and the story climax. I’m very much a plotter. If I don’t hammer out a rough outline I’m just going to keep spinning my wheels. I’m finding the more detailed my outline the better. Still, no matter how much pre-planning I do before I start writing, I still struggle with the beginning of the story every time. I’m not sure what it is, but I inevitably rewrite the opening of my book multiple times before I’m satisfied enough with the opening to move on to the rest of the story. For example, with my latest WIP I actually rewrote the opening to change the point of view character as well as where the story starts chronologically. In this case, I also needed to rewrite one of the characters. I wasn’t happy with how he was developing and needed a stronger character as I moved ahead.

I know they say to just keep writing, you can always go back and edit later. If it were at any other point in the book I’d usually do that, but not at the beginning. I think, for me, I need to feel like I have a solid foundation to build on. If I don’t have all the story threads I plan to follow in the beginning of the book it’s a distraction that I’ll ultimately get tangled up in. It will nag at me until I go back and fix it.  Call me crazy, but that’s just how I operate. Once I’m past the story opening the story seems to fall in place a bit easier. Perhaps it’s because now I’m more comfortable with my characters and where I’m going. Maybe it’s that I find my rhythm and I’m better able to go with the flow.

So tell me, do you have trouble getting over that beginning bump? Do you need your story opening just right before you move on? Is there another area of the creative process that you struggle your way through?

8 responses to “The Beginning Bump

  1. I’ve been known to trash 12 or more pages of “throat-clearing” before I find the right place to begin a story. My advice is to start with the inciting incident–drop kick your characters right into a situation fraught with conflict and see what happens.

  2. Chapter 1 is ALWAYS my toughest chapter. There is so much that needs to go into it: proper tone, set up, introduction of character, setting, inciting incident, etc… I find that I rewrite my first chapters several times (not edits, rewrites). I usually do this at the end of the first draft and again at the end of the subsequent drafts. Apparently, I need time to fully develop my character and the plot before I can go back to the beginning and make sure all those elements are handled the best way possible.

  3. The more I learn to outline the plot and develop my character’s goal/motivation/conflict before I start, the less rewriting I need to do. I used to rewrite the first 3 chapters after I completed the first draft. Now, usually editing is all that is required. But the first chapter still takes longer than any other.

  4. Mia, that’s what I usually try to do. I think for me though I need to be comfortable with my initial steps down the story path. It’s sort of like a settling in period.

    Kathy & Melinda, I think that’s part of it as well. There are so many things I’m trying to get right so that I don’t wind up writing myself into a corner later on. Plus, I’m trying to save myself from having to do massive edits on the subsequent passes through the story.


  5. Rayna: You and I are like thought twins. I could have written this post about my own process. I’ve been doing this very thing with my latest WIP. I have the outline in place and the bulk of it’s the same, but I keep changing the first part of the book to make it more interesting. It’ll set the tone for everything to come so I feel like I have to get it right. Not perfect, but the right scenes.

    Good luck!

  6. Hey Gwen,

    First Congrats again on the Golden Heart final. That’s awesome!

    Second, I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who does this. I totally agree, I don’t have to have the first chapter perfect, but I do need the right scenes.


  7. The beginning is the easiest for me. I usually think about it for a while and see it in my head before sitting down and writing it.

    Then the hard stuff begins. I’m a pantser. Sure, I take notes and have character description before hand, and somewhat of a plot, but that’s it. I think that makes me a character driving writer. Maybe, not sure. I just like discovering who they are as I’m writing.

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