I'm on the third draft of my novel and the opening few paragraphs are a bit of a black hole. I've tried a few things like starting in the middle of the action (too confusing), free writing (too all over the place), looking at the beginnings of some of my favorite books to gain inspiration (too much imitation). Any ideas for inspiration?
Have you tried outlining or mind mapping? I don't do either, but others swear by those techniques.
Hi Marilyn--I have an outline for the novel, but not for the first few paragraphs, that's an interesting idea. I've never heard of mind mapping. What is it?
I've not used this technique so I really can't describe it for you. There are software programs that help you with it. I would suggest researching it on the internet. You might even research it under "mind mapping software" or "story mapping software". I think if you find a software program the description of what the program does will help you understand the overall concept of mind mapping. Usually mind mapping software isn't specifically used for the writer, but mind mapping programs do exactly what a writer in mind mapping their story. Mythoughts, and Mindnode Pro are a couple of the type of software you can use. Remember if there is a software for it, then it was a process that worked without the software initially.
Different sources of inspiration strike different people. I've found when I get stuck on scenes (I'm in the middle of my third novel and in revision after a professional edit of my first), music can be inspiring--sort of gets the creativity flowing again, be it hard rock/metal for fight scenes or any other. I once wrote an entire scene from the inspiration I felt from one song. And I think only a few words of the song were what began a scene in my head. I guess it was a good day for it. And since, that song won't do anything for me. Whatever your source you'll know it when it strikes. Sometimes taking a break from the writing be it a day or week, can spark a new interest in ideas. I like Marilyn's suggestion of an outline, just to maybe get your ideas out there. I'm a panster myself, can't work within the bounds of an outline. But I always have an idea of what the thread is that will flow through my story. Hope that helps a bit! :)
Dana's suggestion is excellent. I do my best writing and am at my most productive when I'm listening to music. I have tons of music loaded onto my laptop that I play through iTunes. I mix, classical, opera, classic rock, pop, mowrown, soul, country, you name it and it's on my lap top. I don't play by album. I use Genises or just play be the "Music" playlist on shuffle so I never know what's coming up next. I learned this from some time I spent in Germany. They play everything on the same radio station, well at least they did when I was there. Music helps me write like nothing else does except total silence.
That is a great idea! I've been thinking about listening to music more. Thanks Dana and Marilyn for your suggestions!
Jannette, what are you trying to do in those opening paragraphs? Set scene? Define character? Show the lovely countryside?
If you get too stuck, drop me a note and I'll take a look and see if I can suggest anything.
What is you intention? Not knowing what my goal is is usually what hangs me up.
From Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY,
"No matter how you choose to begin your novel, you have to think about creating an opening that either possess or promises excitement, intrigue, or high interest for the reader. It should reflect some element of the conflict found in the plot or the subplot, or it should possess—even in metaphorical form—some indication of theme. It should lay out some sort of problem that the character has encountered, or it should foreshadow problems to be encountered. Atmosphere should be set. A place must established. Characters—not necessarily the main ones—need to be introduced."
What is happening in the first chapter that moves your story forward?
This might sound dumb—I listen to what I say in my head when I say "Tell me the story." I don't say "Where do I start?"
I see the beginning-where the character's are, who is there, what they're doing.
I agree with Lynne. I try to begin my stories with some action or hook that intrigues the reader enough to read on.
Here is my example from a novel I am almost done writing the first draft on called Finding the Enclave.
Josh was sitting in his truck outside Randy’s house. Contemplating, what, asking his best friend to be his boy friend? Not a real one, just for pretend so I could get into Ellen’s pants? What a crazy idea, he shook his head. No, it was more than that. He felt a connection with Ellen and he definitely wanted to see her again. First, he had to find a boyfriend. “I don’t date straight men.” He could still hear her words in his head.
Susan and Lynne,
After reading your posts, it dawned on me that I might be trying to do too much with the opening paragraphs. I'm trying to do every one of the things you both described and the result is that the beginning is cramped and confusing. Lynne--I like your idea of saying to yourself "Tell me the story." Susan--I'm going to make another go of it this weekend and I might send you something if you don't mind. Thanks!
I wouldn't have offered if I hadn't meant it, Jannette. We're all in this together, after all.