Question. What is the most important thing you will ever write?
Answer. The beginning.
I’ve been writing for a while. Or years. Or recently. Depending on how you want to define it. But this year, I decided to get serious about it. I write nearly every day. I keep of writing log of the work I’m doing on my current novel in progress. I’ve committed to a chapter a week, which may seem ambitious to some, and pathetic to others.
As part of my commitment to work seriously on writing, I’ve been reading books and blogs for advice on writing. One thing that’s come through loud and clear from all of them is how important the beginning is. The first chapter must draw readers in, have a hook; your first 50 pages must be unstoppable.
I can’t stop thinking about this advice, because I think my beginning kind of sucks. Oh I know how important they are. I studied journalism in college with an old school professor, O’Reilly Rickard, who drilled us in leads. I spent a semester in Journalism 101 writing leads every day, and not to brag, but I was pretty damn good at it.
I never pursued the field of journalism, mostly because I couldn’t fake the level of passionate idealism that seemed to be a requirement. But I still cringe at some of the horrific leads that pass for journalism these days.
But back to beginnings. You can’t write the lead, until you know the story. And with a novel, that’s a little different. Because even if you have an outline, or think you know all your plot twist and details and endings, there are still inspirations that strike as you write, still details and nuance to work out. So you don’t truly know the story until you’ve finished it.
I know this, I know I have to just keep moving on, and stop obsessing over my beginning, but then I read about a first page contest, and I started agonizing over my first 250 words. Which I might change completely, after I’m done, but still, I spent an hour analyzing each and every one of those words.
Then yesterday, I read something about a Twitter pitch. Basically one sentence, 140 characters to sum up the heart of your book. Advice about how to do it--good advice, here. I beat my head on the laptop for a while trying to come up with that. I haven’t succeeded yet, probably because I have yet to write the heart of my book.
So time to get back to writing the book, and not worrying so much about the beginning. I’m sure next week, I’ll read a blog about how the first word in your book must be riveting.
Hmmm, I wonder, what is the most compelling word in the English language?
It probably starts with Q.