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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

False Starts

I ran cross-country in high school. At the Wendy's Regional senior year the girls 5K began with 3 painful false starts. The first because of a fall in the first 20 feet, and then 2 more for someone anticipating the starter's pistol. Lining up that fourth time, I was frustrated and winded from sprinting out fast so as to not get stuck behind the back. Tensions were high-this course was known for the fastest times-and I wasn't the only one hoping for a PR. I jostled for position among the hundreds of girls stretching across the wide (recently mowed) field, doubled checked my shoe laces, and waited again for the starter's pistol.

On you mark,
Get set!

I took off, but not as fast as the times before, and this time the pistol didn't sound again. This time it was for real. I pushed through the thick crowds, finding my pace, glad that this start was the right one.

Revising my NaNo feels so much like this experience. Timing is everything in a race. A novel is no different. Pacing, and especially beginning at the "Right" beginning, is hard. No matter how good the middle may be, or how powerful the ending is, if I can't start at the right place and hook my readers from page one, they're never going to get to page 2, much less 178.

At WIFYR last year Louise Plummer's assingment to the majority of the students was to rerwite the first pages.  We typically fell into 2 catagories
1-Almost always too slow, with info dumps *but we're world building, they need to know this*
2-With so little information that the readers were lost *but the mystery is what's exciting*

I've started my NaNo both ways. Now I'm on my nineth start. I'm trying to listen to the race starter, to feel the moment when the sound of the shot fills my ears, and write that.

Helpful posts on starts. I know there's a million out there, but I learned a lot from PK Hzero and Janette really made me laugh. Enjoy!
PK Hzero
An Author Incognito-Janette Rallison

How do you find the right start?


  1. I went to a workshop with Janette Rallison the day she posted that. I think she did it in reaction to that workshop. :)

    My favorite advise on beginnings was from Martine Leavitt who told us to try to answer the 5 W's on the first page.

    Who is the story about?
    When is the story?
    Where does the story take place?
    What does the character want?
    What makes this day different?

    Not all those things go into a first page, but I find it really helpful to think about that with a beginning.

    Good luck!

  2. I spend so much time on my starts, getting it perfect. You are so right about how important it is. I feel like I spend as much time on the first chapter as I do the whole rest of the book...almost.

    Jeni-I like that 5W's list. Thanks for sharing.

    My sophomore year cross country state champs-some girl tripped me at the start and I slid and popped my shoulder out of socket. I was so mad, ran the rest of the race in pain and ended up with my fastest time ever. Of course to this day, that shoulder still pops out sometimes. :)

  3. Jeni-Thanks for the 5w's. The more I hear about Martine Leavitt and read her stuff, the more I want to be in one of her classes one day. (Keturah and Lord Death anyone?)

    Ilima-Ouch. Way to channel that anger, girl. And agreed on how much time beginnings take.

    1. Martine is awesome. Seriously, everything she said was quotable. And she's SO nice. I highly recommend her workshops if you get the chance.

      According to Amazon, Keturah and Lord Death is coming out again this fall. Yay!! I love that book and could never find a copy (not without spending a ton on a used copy).

    2. Thrilled that Keturah and Lord Death is coming out again. It's the only "new book" that's been a reread for me. So glad you let me know!

  4. This is great, far my favorite post of yours. Such a great analogy with racing and false starts. Oh, I know the pain of first chapters too. That was the only point in my revision so far that I was literally pulling out my hair. Here's hoping what I have now is close! I remember Ally Condie saying at WIFYR last year that she (with her agent/editor) rewrote the first chapter of Matched a bazillion times.