Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Begin, Writers Need To Begin

On the edge, but ready to leap

As a writer, you have to find a beginning to everything- a story, blog post, article, short story or novel. Beginnings are tripsy little bastards, the devils at the start of every project I undertake and too often I inflate the importance to such proportions that a projects dies as a concept unattempted because the beginning won’t come.

Usually when I press harder, when I want something most, that’s when I have the most frustration and consequently, the least success. That is how I find myself, sleep deprived and verging on desperate, wanting to get back to my blog, trying to find a beginning into what had been for so long, an easy and comforting (and snappy in a time sense) part of my day.

I was on a roll for so long, I almost forgot that I have a problem, that I’m almost paralyzed by the dreaded monster called Beginnings.

I’ve begun a half dozen times to write a blog post after my two plus week hiatus, dipping one toe after another into the water, dissatisfied each time, quiting/(pouting?) and waiting for the right words to jump out at me.

Of course, this is ridiculous. I’m just tired, jet lagged and I regressed to a state in my writing life that was depressed and unproductive. Beginnings are easy.

The first words you write are right.

Then you edit.

Simple. Get the words on the page no matter what they are and don’t stress that they come out not quite perfect. Brute force is required sometimes, more often than finesse, and once you force your way into your project, you can always go back later and tidy up the mess if need be.

I wanted to jump into writing so much that I forgot how I had been doing things. I wanted to talk about my vacation and describe it as the magical experience it was, that I panicked. I think I’m better now. I’ll sort out what to share, realizing that two weeks can’t be condensed into one blog post, get it written, post, and get back on a roll.

So I begin again after a deep breath and a reassuring self-pat on the back.

In the beginning...


Kathi said...

Awesome reminder that sometimes you just need to start hitting the keys (or putting pen to paper) and not worry about getting it exactly right.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, me and beginnings go way back. I actually blogged about them too, but I'm not going to give a link :P

I finished my book, the first in a series, then proceeded to write twenty beginnings for it. Yes, twenty. Not all vastly different, but still. All along I knew where, and when, it should start. I just had to circle around the extra long way before I could settle down. I think you're dead on-'the first words you write are right'.

Good luck!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

You just get better and better. Seriously. Write the words and don't look back, at least not for a while.
One of the best blogs I've read lately.
Like the photo!

MT Nickerson said...

Thank you all for the comments (and roisinannamurphy- plug & link all you want).

It really is simple, to write, but not always simple to remind yourself that there is a process. Put the words down, work like hell in editing, keep at it.

Then repeat.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Beginnings? ... I usually go through two or three times or sometimes more before I'm through.

Frankly, I find that there are so many craft points to remember that it can slow down the writing. So, I just write and worry about revising when I get an ending ... which also changes two or three times or more.

Dean K Miller said...

All the sage advice I keep hearing is "Start in the Middle...where the action is." Kind of makes the beginning a moot point, doesn't it?

MT Nickerson said...

But Dean, if you begin in the middle where the action starts, isn't that your beginning? In other words, don't worry, just find your in, wherever you find it because if you worry about what you're supposed to do, more often than not, you end up doing nothing at all.

The beginning are the first words on the page, wherever or even if, they end up in the final product. Write in reverse, from the middle, skip around, but get the words out, then edit.

Jamie said...

The beginning is the hardest to write. It, for so many, defines the direction of where you're headed next.

To me, I think too hard about it that I forget writing is a process. I have learned to start just putting words down on paper. If it flows correctly, great. If, when you re-read it doesn't have the vibe you want, you edit, you change things around until you find the beginning you're happy with. That is my beginning process.

Sarah Wedgbrow said...

"The first words you write are right.

Then you edit."


Just saying: I love writing beginnings and I love reading them. I think because good ones hook you with character. I read for story, yes, but mostly for character. Give me voice on page one...genuine, unique, funny voice and I'm sold.

MT Nickerson said...

Jamie, I agree with you that thinking is sometimes an impediment to progress. Instinct and a relaxed mind and large bit of trust in the mix are what is needed to get the words going. Writers need to trust in the editing process.

MT Nickerson said...

Definitely, Sarah. I read the beginning of books before I buy them, so making certain the beginning works is crucial for writers.

But, if I think too much about that importance as I write something new, then that is when I find trouble. It's all about finding the balance and what works individually.

Sometimes writing feels like self-imposed psychological warfare. :)

Written Words said...

Absolutely. And remember, you don't need to begin at the beginning of your story. Often, it's easier to being in the middle. I've often thought you should write a mystery backwards - solution first.

Joyce Lansky said...

The beginning of a manuscript is rarely the beginning of a finished project so just dive in there.