writing tips

Writing Interesting Beginnings

As an author we want our readers to be sucked into the worlds that we painstakingly develop. We don’t want them to be on the other side of the glass looking in, but to be immersed within it. We are immersed, so why is it that we occasionally see these types of faces staring at our books?

whatcha_reading

Well, it may be because we are slow to start. I am guilty of this in every first, second and even third draft of my own works. I call it: Author Information Vomit. Lovely name, I know but it reminds me of word vomit – and it has a bit of a Mean Girls connection. How you can find yourself unable to keep all the words you should, or should not be saying contained. It just kind of spills out of you. That is exactly what happens with a lot of authors who are focused on world building and character background. This is not to say that your world building/character background isn’t important, but placing it all at the forefront is just information overload for the reader.

Rule of thumb: beginnings should be interesting. Easy, right? Nope. Interesting is important, but as the author you have to make sure that the “interesting” thing happening, is a) appropriate to the story line, b) fits the timeline, c) doesn’t give too much away, and d) propels the story forward towards the main conflict and resolution.

As a side note, I do try to avoid prologues when possible — a lot of the time they aren’t necessary, and may set up your readers for a different kind of story. But use your judgement!

My best advice during the writing process is to write down everything that comes to mind. Everything. Leave it there for the first edit. At the second edit, step back and try to read it as if you have never read your book before and evaluate; don’t take huge chunks out until you have read the whole draft twice. Finally, let yourself read novel and make your cuts. It can hurt to delete beautiful lines, or great paragraphs full of background information. To ease the blow of “killing your darlings,” copy and paste the larger and more beautiful lines that you are cutting. Save them in a separate document in case you can utilize that information later on!

The editing process is a slow, dark and oftentimes unfair process where writers question their motivation to follow through to the polished manuscript. I urge you to follow through, it will absolutely, 100 percent be worth it in the end.

Keep on writing, editing and killing your darlings – your novel will be better off with a savagely determined captain at the helm.

 

 

Corinne can be reached at AndersonEditingServices@gmail.com

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University, and is currently pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University. She hopes that her experience editing and her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

You have a story, but you aren’t ready

Writing is something that some people, the writers, feel compelled to do. It isn’t a pastime, it’s  not something that you do occasionally, you have to do it. Sometimes, it’s almost as if it’s painful to not write.

But what happens when you aren’t ready to write what you know you need to? Do you just not write it? Do you let that story go?

Yes. And no.

Recently, I’ve had some moments in my life that I’d like to write about. But I know I’m not ready to write them. I put my pen to paper and I get a few sentences down – usually the angry parts that really don’t make much sense without the context of the entire story.

And then I find I can’t put into words the rest of the story.

Sometimes we have to accept that while we need to write the story it isn’t always the right time to write it. It takes time, you need time to reflect and to understand your story just as much as you would if you were creating a brand new world. Emotion is a wonderful thing, and you should share it. That’s what every professor you’ve ever had has instructed you to, “Make people feel your story.”

But your story should have resolution, or a reason for not having resolution. We should learn, reflect and make sure we tell the story in its entirety. The good, the bad, the awful, the too-terrible-to-talk-about.

An interview with Kelly Fig Smith, reveals a lot of things that people writing memoir should take note of.  Smith is the winner of Creative Nonfiction’s Spring 2015 $1,000 prize for best essay in The Memoir Issue #55. Her essay, “Do No Harm,” was chosen by the magazine’s editors from more than 1,700 submissions. You can read her full interview with Creative Nonfiction on their website: www..creativenonfiction.org/online-reading/writing-down-hard-stuff#sthash.4gt4BU0q.dpuf.

You can also check out some great tips on Reader’s Digest, on how to write your memoir.

 

 

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

Author Interview with Grant Elliot Smith

Where do you do most of your writing? What is your process like?

I like to write at night when the house is quiet either at my desk or in bed.

My writing process is old school pen and paper. After a writing session, I sit down at my computer to type it out. This gives me another chance to revise as I transition the words to the computer.

 

How did you come up with the idea of this book? How long did it take you to write?

Rathen: The Legend of Ghrakus Castle is a story that has been in my head from when I was about thirteen. I revised it to make it a deeper story and created the characters that would go on the adventure. I would say when I was younger I had a strong imagination.

Writing the book took about three years and another year to revise it the way I wanted it.

 

Who are your favorite authors/books? Why?

Piers Anthony is an author that caught my interest from an early age. From thirteen I read many of the books from his XANTH series. I enjoyed the fantasy aspect and Mr. Anthony’s great imagination.

H.P. Lovecraft is another author who captured my imagination with his style, story, and world creation.

 

Have other questions for our authors? Let us know!

 

Meet the Author

Grant Elliot SmithOriginally from the Midwest, Grant Elliot Smith loved to read from an early age. Saving up his allowance, he spent it all at the local bookstore buying up as much as he could from the fantasy section. His first interest was poetry, which he wrote voraciously; and some of his early work, from as far back as the 1980s, can be found in various poetry anthologies.

Completing four university degrees, including a Masters in Sociology from the University of Essex in Colchester, England, Smith has lived and worked around the world, spending a number of years in Japan. The sights and sounds from the various cultures he has seen helps to fuel his imagination for writing.

Starting the Story

Beginnings are hard. Sometimes more so than the end of a story, or even the middle. When I write, I start from the middle and work my way towards the end and then come back and write the beginning. Then, after I read from beginning to end, I rewrite the beginning again. There are a lot of things you have to do as a writer to hook the reader. As an editor, I find myself making a lot of decisions on the first chapter.

Our guidelines for Ink Smith Publishing submissions require that not only do writers need to submit their cover letter and synopsis of their book, but the first three chapters as well. Once we get past the cover letter and synopsis and we like the ideas you’ve presented, everything weighs on those three chapters.

As an editor, here are a few things that I think might be helpful to you as you write and rewrite your own beginnings.

  1. Don’t be afraid to enter late. What does this mean? It means start the story in some action. Draw the reader in with some intriguing information, a battle scene, a funeral, the punchline of a joke. Something that makes us wonder how we got to this point and where we’re going. That isn’t to say start in the middle of your story and keep writing; it means start in the middle of a minor conflict that will help catapult us into the major conflict of your story. But make sure it rings true to the rest of the tale!
  2. Don’t spend an exorbitant amount of space describing the scene. Scenery, mood, descriptions are all important, we all know that. But if you’re developing a new world, making new rules for the existing one we live in today – let the reader experience the description along with the story. Chunking description together blocks the reader from being able to immediately connect with a character (whether they hate or love the character). It allows them a slow entrance into the “world” but a strong enough entrance that we establish the main issues going on.
  3. Careful with dream scenes. Occasionally, writers start with the dream sequence. They put the reader in danger, seeing ghosts, even attacking someone. And then they wake up. There are exceptions to every rule – but for the most part, try and avoid this overly cliche way to begin a story. It can mislead the reader in a negative way.
  4. Prologues are not always needed. Prologues are useful in a lot of ways. But if you are starting your story off with a prologue than keep this in mind: don’t use it as an information dump. When I’m writing my first draft, everything I write down seems crucial to the story. Then when I go back and re-read a section I find that there are blocks of text that are just paragraph upon paragraph of information. Most of which the reader doesn’t even need. It was almost like a small little place where I was brainstorming and over detailing every single moment. So write your prologue. But when you finish the book, go back and read the prologue again. Does it seem absolutely necessary? If the answer is no, take it out.
  5. Start with a character that is important. I’ve read proposals where the “main character” is compelling, or at least the character they show me right away in great detail. The character makes me want to read more and then as we continue on into further chapters (maybe two or three) the character is revealed to be someone who isn’t important at all and our focus shifts completely away from the character I liked to begin with. Why waste all those pages letting me see into this character, drawing me in to their world and then remove them?
  6. Death should matter. Or not matter, but make it mean something. Do not kill someone off for the mere shock factor in the first chapter of your book. Make sure the death means something, either acting as a catalyst for the rest of the book to follow, or perhaps as a hardship that the main character will have to face. Mr. Martin is the exception for the topic of death (in my opinion!).

There are exceptions to all these, not every technique works for every author. And there may be authors that do exactly what I say you should avoid and do it so well that it works. Rules are made to be broken – but these are not rules. These are guidelines. Ultimately your beginnings are yours to mold as you will, but reflect back on some books you’ve read in the genre you are writing in. What kind of things do you see utilized over and over again? Stand out and try something different – but make that difference matter.

 

 

 

Connect with me @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.