Beginnings for the novice writer?

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Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29521 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:47 pm

When starting out a new writing project do you like to start it out with action, dialog, and interplay? Or prefer deep introspective sections?

Let me apply it to my current project and explain that I have buckled down and only been seriously trying to be a writer for about a year and a half. In that year and a half I cranked out a draft for a full novel (discovered abruptly that I am illequipped to undergo the editing process for that) before devoting my attentions to a better suited starter project: this is a series of short stories around a central character that will form a complete novel. Ten of these short stories are now roughed out and in various stages of revisions (precisely why I am now a member of Critters! I need to learn more about what I am doing in this stage). Currently I am seriously re-evaluating the opener of my first story and pondering if I am wiser to wake up the sleeper, crank up the tension sooner, and send my reader on the path to adventure right out of the gate.

Methods? How do you decide which works best?
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby aburt » Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:08 pm

Well, you might be interested in what (Critter member) Robert Qualkinbush found when he extensively analyzed almost 1,500(!) openings from both pro and new writers, in order to figure out what pros did differently. He wrote up what he found in How To Improve Your Speculative Fiction Openings.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29535 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:51 am

I am a beginning writer as well. I just finished my first draft of a short novel, mystery, and I'm really trying to pick it apart. In my case, I used the backdrop of the location in which the story is set. I tried to paint a picture of the season and the overall feel of the book. The gist of it is based in MN in the fall. Falling leaves, bare branches, isolation... this leads to the discovery of a body in the woods. So, hopefully I set the tone for the rest of the book. Not sure if I would go that route again, but in this first off I approached it that way.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29521 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:19 pm

Thanks aburt! I will pick that up as soon as I get the chance.

John, my first approach for mine was setting descriptive tone as well with the character in quiet contemplation. Recently in picking it apart with family and friends it became obvious that my opening seemed rather weak, the slow unfolding that at first was a nice contrast to the rest of the pace failed to grab the readers attention... however, once I reached the end of the first draft where the action began they latched on and were turning the virtual pages. I did a revision with a new action sequence opener and it shifted the original introspection as a follow-up and thus far the reaction is better. I will know more how effective that is when my manuscript bubbles to the top of the queue and the critiques come in. :)

Mine has a little mystery woven in as well. The hard part for me is I'm trying to establish this fantasy realm for the first time in a condensed manner without boring the reader with the details. Very first rough draft did that exactly! Learned my lesson and went back to the drawing board and yanked out some non-essentials.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29535 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:08 am

Well it seems you have a good support system in place, and have the tools necessary to get the ball rolling. I am happy for you that you realized this and had the courage to make a change and move forward. That in itself take guts. I have the problem of getting married to what is on the page sometimes. Fantasy is a great genre to read, however, I am not creative enough to put thoughts to paper just yet. I hope all goes well for you and you stick with it. Always glad to hear success stories.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29521 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:16 pm

Yeah, I would be lying if I said I haven't gotten stuck in 'married' to what I have written. :D That's one of the reasons I joined Critters was because I was finding it difficult to see what specifically needed improvement. I knew the material needed a boost, but I was too close to it be able to decide. I run into another issue with family and friends--I tend to chat about the inner workings which means they auto-fill in the plot. Sooo... over time their feedback ends up loosing some effectiveness due to privileged information. That's not as likely to happen here. ;)

I do plan on sticking with this, even in high school being an author/illustrator had been my dream. Here I am 17 years later FINALLY getting my act together. Better late than never. Starting out with short stories to work on editing I have lots of 'beginnings' to execute, and I want to be certain I am giving my readers something that peeks their interest. The critical one at this point is my first one, the opener into my little world. I fear if I loose the bulk of the readers on the first page... well, of course they'll never come back then! Gotta find that properly baited hook with the promise of what is to come and keep them trailing along.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit29535 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:09 am

I certainly agree with you on all counts. I have had several family members read a chapter here and there to no avail, my mother seems to be in the story telling mode with tid bits of; why can't she do this, or you should have him do that. I can see the story in my head before I even put a finger on a key, it's just coaxing it out of there that give me grief. I have never been a great lover of books, in all honesty, I read my first whole book when I was living in Germany while in the army. But I can tell a mean story though! I took a writing class when I was in my late 30's and my professor said I should write, like you, many years later here I am. That hook you speak of, is the best feeling in the world. For me, it's the same as hearing your favorite tune on the radio and it's stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Those words dance around in your brain just waiting to gush out. That's what does it for me when writing.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit30303 » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:05 pm

I have personally found each author I read to be different in style for an opening. Many successful authors have done it any and every which way. What I try to do, and what I've seen in the market is to immediately start with dialogue or action. A lot of times the starting line is in the middle of a conversation and the reader has to catch up while reading the second half. I say do what is most comfortable to you :) If you are happy with it, that is what matters.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit15937 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:44 pm

Ugh I wanted to see what that guy wrote but you have to buy the book. I have no money. As for my opinion about openings. I feel that as a beginner it is best to start with action. It is easier to grab attention with that when you are just starting out. Then as you get more experience you can use other methods to surprise your readers. But like any writing the first three paragraphs will decide whether someone will continue reading or not so you need to show the general direction the whole book will take. Still I probably shouldn't say anything since I am still struggling with it myself. Without feedback it's hard to know whether you have successfully wrote a good hook or not. That is why the critters system is so essential. I couldn't find anywhere else that gives me such good in depth feedback as this site.
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Re: Beginnings for the novice writer?

Postby crit31920 » Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:27 pm

I'm an avid reader and that's an understatement. I read over 100 books a year and if a book is rubbish I delete very quickly. I don't waste my time. Too many good authors, too many superb stories, too little time.

Now having said all that I can tell you from my personal experience that the first sentence is not the most important. I don't expect to be dazzled immediately. Catch my attention, yes. Lead me into the story and make me care. That happens within the first few pages. The trick though is keeping my interest right until the very end. I've deleted books at 5% and I've deleted books at 80%. I'm not obliged to finish any book, ever. If I've paid good money for the book and you disspoint me in the last half, your review is going to be harsh. If it starts off slowly but you've drawn me in, keeping me there in the story, I'll rate the book well.

My biggest reason for deleting a book is not grammatical errors. They irk me but if the story's good, I'll stay. My bugbear is cliches, nonsensical writing and obvious contradictions which means that the author has slapped together a book, published way too fast and expects me to be blown away. Not happening honey. I've read some damn good authors and you need to get your act together. Know you genre and for goodness sake, read your dialogue out loud to yourself before publishing.

Did I veer sharply off topic? Apologies. Don't worry about the first sentence or even the fist paragraph. Tell me a good story.
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