Writing Beginnings and Corpse Construction

Especially if you’re me.

It’s no secret that I’m terrible at writing beginnings to stories. Sure, sometimes I get a killer opening line, like the one for THE MORTALITY VICE:

“My name is Henry James William Hyde, and today I forfeit my life.”

But the whole… start of the story is usually beyond me. I cobble together something to get my through, then skip to the ending chapters. Writing is a weird process to begin with, and it’s even weirder when you struggle to write linearly.

I’ve used this simile before: writing a story is like reconstructing a body.

You’re taking an idea and giving it substance. There are many ways to set up your specimen: Some begin with the skeleton (outlining) and fill in the organs (major plot points) from there, connecting it with ligaments and muscles.

As a pantser, I have a planogram of a skeleton tacked to the wall, but I’ve dumped all the bones in a box and gone straight for the organs. Since I can’t write forward, write backward. It takes the pressure off having a perfect beginning and I get to feed my impatience for getting to all my favorite scenes.

This, of course, may panic those of you who love and need outlines. I frolic through my own narrative flinging horror like paint and stitching in veins as I go. I install the bones when I need to.

There is no wrong or right way to start reconstruction.

First drafts will always suck. Will starting from the end give you a perfect opener? Nope.
But it will take the pressure off and let you move past it. It’s skirting around the wall and helping you collect the tools you’ll need to break it down.

You get better with practice. I’ve rewritten the beginning of THE KILLING TYPE five times. I’m about to do it again. The trick with beginnings is you have to make those first few pages count. In my case, I lack clarity. Read your manuscript backward to pick up the tools again. Where do you want to start? What’s the most important thing you want to give the reader to make them want to invest in your story?

Not all skeletons are rebuilt from bones to skin; don’t be afraid to experiment. There will always be something you struggle with, whether it’s the beginning, the mushy middle, or knowing how to end it. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or ask for advice. Stick your hand in that pan of organs and see what you pull out.



Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Writing Beginnings and Corpse Construction

  1. This is EXACTLY how I approach DIY. And I’ve been known to fling paint in horror.

  2. This is such a great post, and describes what I’m trying to fix in my own writing style… storyline. I’ve struggled for years at finding the right method to build a good first draft. That first line, or great general concept, will hit me but after that, things tend to fall apart. Here’s what I shared last week: http://jameseik.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/running-into-the-hurdles-of-writing/

    Thanks again for sharing! I’ll have to see if there are different elements of my story I can reconstruct as I go along.

    • onegirlvaudeville

      Read it and commented. šŸ˜€

      There’s no real method of drafting. You just do whatever it takes to get that first draft down. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or make sense all the time, or be anything you show off with pride. Figure out what you want and need to say with the story and then go at it.

      • Thanks for reading (and the comment)! The initial drafts definitely don’t have to be pretty – all that matters is generating content and getting words on the page. After that, things start arranging themselves.

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