Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rule #1 Begin at the Beginning

I'm a mentor. As unbelievable as that might sound, it's true. ACFW asked for published authors to volunteer. I volunteered. Good thing the only qualification is publication. I'm not so sure I've got any other ones! Now I'm working with three very talented pre-pubbed authors. There isn't one that's not a better writer than I was when I wrote my first manuscript. I have high hopes that all three will soon step into the publishing world and transform from mentored to mentor.

But that isn't why I'm posting. Two of the ladies sent me their Genesis contest entries, and both were quite good. While very different in tone, voice, color, they shared one thing in common, prompting me to send the same comment to both of them - make sure you begin at the beginning (well, I didn't say it like that, but it's what I meant ).

So, how do you know where your story begins? Ask yourselves these
questions - what is the catalyst that propels the characters into action?
Whether the story is romance, mystery, suspense, chick-lit, what is it that
gets the ball rolling? Does the first scene bring your reader into the story
immediately? Does it give subtle information about your protagonist's
motivation and goal? Is it vital? Compelling? Does it drive the story
forward, or only set a stage that you plan to fill at a later time?

Just as in any business, first impressions are important. Beginning your story at the right spot will create the perfect backdrop for a compelling read.


Sabrina L. Fox said...

Shirlee, were you a first round judge in the Genesis contest??? (if you're allowed to say)This post sounds just like one of my judges comments.

Whoever it was, they were right. I moved a few things around and it made a better start to the story. Before I made the changes the start of the story was confusing for the reader.

Shirlee McCoy said...

I was. I judged SciFi, though, so those weren't my comments! Beginning at the beginning is one of the things I struggle with as a writer, though. The questions I posted are ones I ask myself when I'm editing and revising my manuscripts.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

It is really true. And sometimes it's hard to know where the beginning is. I generally write a lot before I figure out exactly where the story begins. The key is to cut all that stuff before, which I think we really hate to do!

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Jen, you know how I feel about cutting stuff. LOL. It's like pulling teeth. =)Once I do it always turns out better. Sigh.

Camy Tang said...

Too true! It's so hard, sometimes, to know when my story really begins.

I'm an ACFW mentor as well, but I've been sadly AWOL the past few weeks. Bad Camy, bad Camy.


Shirlee McCoy said...

Good, Camy. Good, good, Camy. Feel better now? :0)

I'm sure your mentor group understands you've got a lot on your plate. The first few months after getting published are hectic. It gets easier. Or maybe you just get use to it.

Jennifer! Cut stuff? But those words might be the best we've ever written! I'm always thinking that as I slash and mutilate my rough drafts. It's funny, though, how getting rid of all that stuff that comes before can make our work flow.

Sabrina, I'm dying to know if you sent that partial out.