The False Start

I’m waffling between two different openings for my middle grade. I have been for some time. Of course my choice influences the rest of the pages…

Then I saw a link cautioning Beware the False Beginning.

Brian, a YA author, says, “Always be a little suspicious of your beginning. Not necessarily the first line or two which might be perfect, but the first ten pages where your story is trying to get started. You want to jump into your real story as quickly as you can. You want to start your story as close to the heart of the story as possible.”
I have to run warm up laps. I have to spend some time with my characters to understand their wants and goals. That’s the backstory, and it’s usually in the first ten to twenty pages of the first draft.
I’ve heard it said that once Richard Peck reaches the end of his draft, he throws out the first chapter without even reading it. Then he writes a new one. The first chapter is the last in disguise, or something like that. It’s a promise to the reader.
So what’s the heart of the story? I need to start there, at the moment before everything changes. Then weave the backstory throughout.
Easier said than done.

7 Responses to “The False Start”

  1. Karen Akins

    Good post. I worry about this a lot, that I'm so in love with those first 250 words that they're anchoring me down to a scene that's not my favorite.

  2. Kristin Rae

    That's an interesting concept of throwing out the first chapter without even reading it… I wonder why he even writes one in the first place.

  3. Audra

    Very interesting. I can see how you could get attached to the first part. At the end of the draft you would know your characters better. Keep working, I can't wait to have my own copy of your first book!

  4. kristinlgray

    Karen – I don't think you have anything to worry about. 😉

    Kristin – Probably to gain a good understanding of his story and characters. That'd be my guess! Thanks for stopping by.

    Audra – You, my dear, are crowned beta-reader. As soon as I *ahem* have something worthwhile for you to read.

    Elle – Sad but true. Anything for a better story!

  5. Clara Gillow Clark

    Richard Peck still uses a typewriter. Egads! About beginnings: They are so tough that it often takes about 47 revisions before submission and then my editor says. . .