It wasn’t always this way. I used to love them. I used to find them really easy. An idea would pop into my mind and five seconds later I was writing it and it would just flow and the world was full of happy bluebirds and fluffy bunnies and singing princesses. Of course afterwards I’d have to rewrite the whole story fifty times over (including the stupid beginning) but hey, at least the start went well…
Sadly this is no longer the case for me. I’ve started my new WIP and it’s taken me a week to get the first chapter right. This is unusual for me since when things are going well I can write a chapter in a day. My problem is – I think – that the more I know about character and conflict, the easier it is for me to see when it’s missing from my story. Last year I’d push through the hard bits and just write in an effort to find the story. Now I’m finding I can’t do that. Now I’m realising that when it gets hard, it’s usually because I’m missing something vital and if I write through, I’ll only end up rewriting over and over so it’s better to get it right first time round.
This beginning hate is also partly a change of process. Instead of having an idea of the set up and writing instantly, I spend a LOT of time thinking about the story first, getting it straight in my head initially. This has been great in terms of conflict etc but when I sit down to write I’ve sometimes got too much information in my head and I struggle to get the balance of conflict, backstory, and character right in that first chapter.
Then there’s the writing away and suddenly having to stop because you’ve realised you haven’t nailed the characters down as well as you could have. This in particular has been a real bugbear for me, especially with this WIP, probably because my sheikh and his oil baronness were so strong in my head. I always knew what they’d say in any given situation because I knew them. But this time round it’s been a struggle to fix Mr Rough and Miss Prim. She was easier. But he…I just couldn’t get him. It’s like the difference between a statue of a man and the living, breathing reality of him. I knew his appearance, his conflict, a fair bit of backstory but he just wouldn’t come to life for me. I suppose the good thing is that now I know the feeling of having a character come to life – my chessman, my sheikh – I can recognise when it’s not happening and can stop and try to find the ‘key’ to the character. And for me that’s usually figuring out their layers. ie what’s the mask they wear in public (their identity) and who are they behind this mask (their essence).
Anyway, to cut a long and VERY boring story short, once I’d figured out Mr Rough’s identity (after only having to write his POV twice!) the stupid statue finally began to show signs of life and now I think I have him. Just as well since his conflict is going to be an extremely tough one to write and he’s going to be another dark, angry hero that I will have to break. Hehe. *rubs hands*.
Does anyone else find beginnings tough? Or is it just me??