Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writing Wednesdays: Importance of Beginning

I got a spot at the Writer's Intensive at SCBWI. Not only does this mean that I'll have to get a bus after class and show up at my friend's place in NYC at... oh... one in the morning, but it also means I'm obsessing about my manuscript's first 500 words.

I'm in the middle of revisions anyway, preparing to present chapters to my class back at Simmons. I'm not letting the first 500 get to me (a la Mary Kole's post), or trying not to. I spent all of yesterday finishing a draft and making a list of things I need to revise for. The first 500 is on there, but not all I need to do.

But it signals something to me that I'm thinking about this. I've conformed, in a way. I used to not care so much about beginnings. The book stood as a whole, on its own. The beginning doesn't matter. How can you judge a book on the first three (five, ten) pages when so much happens later.

Right. If you start sending the second chapter to agents, there's a clue that your beginnings need work. Not that I did this. Never....

Now opening lines are floating all over my head. Will they work to get the tone of my character down, to show how interesting her life is and why her problems are important? I don't know. But I know that revising these first words will help me revise the manuscript as a whole. The methods I use to pick them need to be applied to every page. That's why every revision of the first fifty my professor has sent me has led to a full-manuscript revision.

It's not because I'm obsessed (really) it's because I want a polished book, not just a polished first chapter, to be the beginning of my career.


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