Friday, 4 November 2011

The Key to Beginnings by Jannae Sifontes

It’s Nov 4th, and writing is (hopefully) underway!  You’ve got your outline, your snacks, your character sketches and your writing tools of choice sitting in front of you.

Now what?

There is just something rough about those first crucial words in any work, be it short prose or novel length.  These are the words that may well cause someone to stay engaged or to close the book or webpage and ignore the rest of your masterpiece.  However, as big of a deal as these words are in the grand scheme of things, do not let them stress you out to the point where you stare at the page all day and end up writing nothing.  

Remember, you can ALWAYS come back and tinker with that opening paragraph later on down the line.  If nothing comes to mind for that iconic introduction into the world you are about to create, then move on to the meat of the matter.  The choice of words isn’t quite as important as the message conveyed by them.

For me, the key to the beginning is remembering the end.  Is there an overall theme or mood that I want to create for this work?  If you plan on transitioning from one mood to another, be sure to keep that in mind.  Just like cooking, you’ll want to introduce those other elements as you’re writing so that your reader isn’t completely taken off guard.  

Unless, of course, that is exactly what you are going for.  A sort of Alice down the rabbit hole feeling.  Even so, you have to remember which elements you want to remain constant, and be sure to start with them as well.

Do I want to set up some major plot twists down the line?  Know what hints you want to drop and how early you want to drop them.  As a writer, you want to make reading your work a smooth experience with as few derailing moments as possible.  There is a difference between surprising your reader and making your reader completely confused because that ingenious plot twist came out of seemingly nowhere.

The beginning of your work is setting the foundation for what everything else will be built upon.  Only you know what aspects of your story are crucial to that foundation.  Which characters must be introduced now, which facts or rules of your world must be explained up front and what history must be painted are all intimate decisions that will vary from work to work.  

Please do not feel like you must introduce everyone within the first few chapters of your work or that you must explain every aspect of the world they live in sooner rather than later.  You’re not writing a history book (or are you?!?).  Take your time and let your reader sink deeper into your world, establishing a breadcrumb trail, if you will, that leads them deeper and deeper into the novel. 

In addition to establishing that foundation for the rest of your work, you want to form a connection between the reader and your characters.  With that being said, make them as believable as you can.  Show as much as you can rather than tell with your characters.  Let their personalities shine through their actions and inner dialogue as you introduce them.   

When you get to know someone in real life, it’s usually little things over time, learning bigger and juicier tidbits the longer you know them.  If you let the readers know about that traumatic event at the start of the relationship, the reader may develop their own notions about the character, which may differ from the image you want to portray.

But above all, have fun!  You should be excited more than anything.  If you are already stressed out at this point, you’re over thinking it all WAY too much, and you’re more likely to get burned out sooner.  This is the start of a great adventure, if you aren’t enjoying it, how do you expect your readers to do so?

Happy writing, Wrimos!

How do YOU start your novels? Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies on beginnings?

Jannae’ Sifontes (@PurelyNae) has had a love affair with writing since the age of 8, which has manifested itself in many ways over the years.  From her Bachelors in English to her J.D., one thing she has yet to get tired of is putting ideas on paper.  She is currently employed as a Marine wife, going on her third year of marriage and waiting to see where the military and life takes her.  Jannae’ has high aspirations for changing the world around her, one thought and one moment at a time.  This will be her first year participating in NaNoWriMo, with hopes to go on to eventually publish the resulting work.  

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