Thursday, July 22, 2010

SUBLIMINAL THURSDAY: I'm Sending out an S.O.S to the World or What About Cheerleading Tryouts???

This is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges in all of novel-writing - where does the story begin?

In my second book, a women's fiction novel entitled, SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS, I sliced out over 30,000 words at the "beginning" of the story. Yup, you read that right, folks - 30-freaking-thousand words. It was hard. Brutal. Laborious. Life-sucking. [Can you say, "Drama Queen?"] Without those vitally important [innocuous, boring] words, how would the readers [my mom] know what compelled Jenny, my main character, to do the things she did as an adult? [No one cares.] I mean, if nearly every thought Jenny had as a kid wasn't fully, painfully, and - dare I say - exquisitely expressed, wouldn't there be something drastically missing from the story? [See last SM]

And, what about cheerleading tryouts?!!! If the readers [Mom] didn't walk through that heart wrenching experience with Jenny step by step, how could they [she] fully understand her neuroses? Yeah, I knew you - my fellow writers - would "get it." [Do I hear snoring?]

About those cut words? Never fear! I kept all 30,000 of those precious babies! [Holy Moses on a Popsicle stick, say it ain't so.] They're in a document entitled "Outtakes," which I'm sure will one day be a huge best-seller all on its own. [Just about the same time Sarah Palin realizes she can't actually see Russia from her house.] I'll probably rename it something like, "Jenny: The Early Years." Who could resist a title like that? [My mom and everyone else on the planet.]

Which brings me to my current challenge. I've completed my fifth draft of my YA novel, and I'm starting to feel pretty damn good about it. Not good enough for AA to take it on submission, mind you, but close. [Unfortunately, a book is not a horse shoe or a hand grenade.] However, I'm not 100% sure about the beginning. I thought I was, but then AA made a suggestion and now I'm not so sure. [Why does she have to be so much smarter than me? Doesn't she know I'm insecure enough as it is?]

So, I'm sending out an S.O.S. to the world. How [the effing hell] do you know where the perfect place to begin your story is? [Either send a message in a bottle, or leave a comment, whichever you prefer.]

21 comments:

Ruthanne Reid said...

First of all: Holy Remodel, Batman! WOW did the blog get a new look!

Secondly: It's a funny thing, but every story I have was easy to begin... except The Unnamed One.

The Unnamed One is also my first novel, which I absolutely have REFUSED to let die. It's been rewritten so much now it's honestly not that novel anymore - and yet, unlike all the other stories, it refuses a name. Refuses. All the other titles? Easy! This one? Nope.

It also insisted on starting in six different places each time I rewrote it.

Only now do I honestly have the right place, and I figured it out by asking myself this question: where, for this person, does the story REALLY start?

Sure, background comes into it. But the thing that changes stuff - the thing that gets the plot moving - the thing that requires a decision, an action, that makes a CHANGE - that is the beginning. Right there.

For this character, it's when he grew wings. Background and history are important. Later decisions are also important. But for him, for this story, the hinge point is when he grew those wings, because that's when things changed - and he had to make some very hard choices.

*stares at comment* I do believe I'm in a rambling mood today. :D

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

I am so with you. My recent struggles with my work in progress were because I was 120 pages in and I felt like the story hadn't really gotten going yet. So, what did I do? I cut the 120 pages and started at that point and honestly, it makes more sense.

I say, start just before the real action gets going. I personally don't like books that drop the reader into the story as the character is being lowered into a vat-sized meat grinder. I need to connect before the non-stop car chase, otherwise I'm too worried about the character's dismal future to bother. :)

Love ya!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Ruthanne,"...the thing that changes stuff - the thing that gets the plot moving - the thing that requires a decision, an action, that makes a CHANGE - that is the beginning. Right there."

Freaking brilliant. That's exactly what I needed. THANK YOU!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Julie, Cutting 120 pages is an amazing act of bravery and talent. And, I so agree w/you about not getting dropped into a vat-sized meat grinder. I need to connect with the characters at first, too. Therein, lies my dilemma...

Angie Ledbetter said...

Right smack dab in the middle of the dilemma.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Um, I'm pretty sure you just read my mind. Seriously. I'm struggling with this issue right now. Why are beginnings always the hardest?

PS: I love the new look for your blog. It's super cute!

Kelly H-Y said...

I got such a kick out of this post! I'm more comfortable with the beginnings ... and struggle like crazy with the endings! Your blog looks fantastic!

Sybir St. John said...

Wow, follow the email link and end up on a revamped site. Are you sure you're not channeling my inner artistic geek who has to change up website designs every few months too?? ;)

I try to start my stories where the action takes place, something that puts my characters at odds, yet somehow bringing them together. It's a convoluted puzzle. :)

blueeyedadri said...

I just wrote wherever the story took me and then during the revision cut out 3k words (oops not 30k, sorry!)being chapter two, totally re-wrote Chapter one, made chapter three chapter two.....blah blah!

And still I am facing the same dilemma as you.

Just use action and drama, drama, drama!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Angie, Hah! I hope you have better luck than me. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kim, I don't know why we writers struggle so much with, "where does the story REALLY begin?" And, yet - we do!!!

Glad you like the new "do," btw.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kelly, I'm glad you like the post and the new blog look. I thought my previous design company (The Cutest Blog on the Block) was jumping ship, but apparently they're just changing things up. In the meantime, I utilized the blog designs now provided by blogger on blogspot.com.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Stacia, My background is marketing as well, so yes, I love to change things up!

"I try to start my stories where the action takes place, something that puts my characters at odds, yet somehow bringing them together." More brilliant advice. I knew I could count on you. ;-)))

Debra L. Schubert said...

BED, Yup, everyone loves drama. What's up with that?

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Follow your gut...if you're thinking the beginning is not the beginning, it's probably not! Either give it to you critique partner or beta readers and ask -- where does the story start? They'll tell you. Or maybe AA is that person for you. Either way, when you hit it, you will know!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Amy, I really like the beginning now, but I trust AA so much. I've had five people read so far and they've loved it. I will continue to mull it over...

Jemi Fraser said...

I like the new blog look! :)

Finding the beginning is SO hard. I've got a character running around my head, but finding where to start her story is hard. I'm hoping she narrows it down for me soon. :)

Linda Pressman said...

I write memoir, Debra, but it's been illuminating to read these comments about where to start a book. Just because my story is from life that doesn't mean I shouldn't start it in the middle of the action, setting up the conflict that will later be resolved.

And I'm glad to see someone else has been having fun on the new template designer on blogger too! My only problem is that I want to keep on changing mine, like every day!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jemi, Good luck w/finding the starting point for your new story. Isn't it strange how difficult that can be? And, I'm glad you like the new blog look. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Linda, It's true that no matter what genre you write, the question of where to start the story is important. I love memoir, so good for you. And, yes it's fun playing with blog designs!!!

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