I Hate Beginnings

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??

8 thoughts on “I Hate Beginnings”

  1. Me me!! I hate beginnings. I hate the first three chapters. I love the middle. I think that makes me an aberration.

    A medical I started(for the medical pitch), I had the same problem… knew all about the hero but he wasn’t talking to me. Not until I refused to write anything else but his story, like a background, in first person and he finally opened his danged mouth.

    But I still hate beginnings. I find them exceedingly hard, and I am never sure if I’ve started in the right place or if the characters are interesting(if not likeable) enough to stick around for. Or if I’m being too much of a sarcastic biznitch… because that happens too 😮

    You are not alone. We hates first chapters, precious!

  2. Amalie – then I’m an aberration too! I hear ya on the middle – I quite like them as well. That’s when the characters start to come into their own and you can really start to explore them.

    That’s quite a cool way of getting them to talk actually – writing first person. The way I got to mine was when Maisey suggested he was cynical and I thought yes! Then I thought no! He’s not cynical he’s determined and purposeful and driven and really, really, angry!! I just love the way someone can say something like that and even if it’s not right, it leads you on the path to what is.

    Anyway, I wonder about the right place too. And also whether my characters are sympathetic – especially the hero. I’m a little afraid of the alpha I think so I always hold back on him.

    First Chapter Haters Unite!!

  3. Sometimes I feel like we are walking the same path 🙂 I used to love beginnings to…I’m starting to think it’s my insecurity that is stopping me from enjoying those first three chapters..I keep second-guessing myself. Good for you Jackie, sounds like you’re getting through it!

  4. Victoria – Hehe, join Beginning Haters Anonymous. 🙂 I like to think that it’s because I’ve learned more now and instead of discovering what I’m missing once the story’s done (or not seeing it at all), I’m discovering it much sooner. Which means less rewriting. I think the sheikh is the first story I’ve done that I didn’t have to rewrite the beginning once I’d finished the whole story. In fact, it was really weird that I didn’t have to! I have no idea whether this is progress or not but I’m calling it that anyway. 🙂
    But yeah, second guessing? I haz it.

  5. I hate beginnings too! I just posted something on my blog yesterday where I wondered if it was just me–phew!

    First chapters are so important, and I think that’s what makes me freeze up sometimes. If I don’t know my characters well, or if I haven’t thought through the conflict, everything that follows is going to fall flat. For me, it’s performance anxiety. I do find that the sooner I can get my H/h to interact, the easier it is to figure out what they’re about. I also like Amalie’s idea of writing in the first person.

    I guess it’s all a necessary evil, since once you have a great beginning, that sets up a great middle and end. But there’s nothing easy about it. Good luck!

  6. Natalie – Hey, thanks for commenting! Clearly great minds think alike. 🙂 Yes, it isn’t easy is it? That self-doubt can be a killer. I think the key for me is if I’m finding the h/H interaction difficult, then I don’t know my characters well enough. And I need to stop and do some more thinking about them. Goes against my impatient tendencies but sure is better than rewriting 50 million times. 🙂

  7. Maybe I shouldn’t leave a comment as it seems that I am the odd one out (how surprising – like that’s never happened to me before!) but I find beginnings super easy.

    That’s not saying they’re great in any literary sense (except for maybe entering into the Bulwer-Lytton competition). It’s the middles and endings that trip me up.

    Maybe I’ll start a website where I can load all my beginnings and you can come along and just grab whichever one takes your fancy. As long as I get a credit on the inside cover, I’ll be happy. Of course the alternative is that I learn to write the rest of the book…….(insert whiney voice) but that’s so much hard work!!!

    Keep up the good work, Jackie, your struggles are making you stronger:)

  8. Elissa – hats off to you! I wish I did! I used to love beginnings. Sigh. Oh well, on the up side, I don’t mind endings so much now. 🙂 I like the idea of your website. I’ll grab a beginning and do the middle and the end. Great division of labour I reckon.
    Anyway, I hope so re the struggles. I’m kind of sick of it to be honest.
    *whines* *moans*

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