Writing in general is hard, of course, but here lately it’s been beginnings that make me want to stomp my feet, throw myself on the ground, and scream obscenities at whoever first invented the story.
I have a finished manuscript. A disjointed, crappily executed, needs so much red ink it’s gonna hemorrhage, finished manuscript. I’m in the process of editing and rewriting this eyesore, and the thing that has been bugging the shit fire out of me is the beginning.
The beginning I had? No worky.
This is a problem I run into with all of my stuff. I write something out, get it finished, and then I get stuck in the rewrite process because the beginning needs to change. I either start too late or too early, or with the wrong scene entirely. I rewrite about fifty different beginnings that are all good beginnings, just not for this particular story. It’s kind of like being in the middle of baking a cake and really craving nachos, but that cheesy-meaty-chippy-goodness, as awesome as it is, has no place going into the cake recipe.
And I am incapable of just moving on to fix a different scene later in the story. No, because everything hinges on the beginning and how that unfolds, and I know I’ll end up rewriting all that shit again once I do have a beginning that works.
So I usually keep trying until I’ve hit my head against a metaphorical wall so many times I have an epic metaphorical concussion. My thoughts get all jumbled, all the details kind of blur together, and I end up lurking and reposting the fuck out of Tumblr gifs for my current fandoms to get my mind off the failboat my writing becomes.
Then comes the waves of guilt and the obnoxious and judgmental blinking cursor on a blank writing page. Blink. Have you written today? Blink. Don’t you have any ideas? Blink. And you call yourself a writer, you Tumblr whore. Blink. Stop reposting Tyler Hoechlin’s abs. Blink. Damn, those are some nice abs.
When I get to the end of my metaphorical tether I need two things: a boot up the ass in the form of a deadline, and new material to study.
My Mom, the awesome woman she is, provided me with the first in the form of the Strongest Start contest from The Next Big Writer. They want the first three chapters of your story and will judge them based on how badly they make the reader want to continue with the book.
Auspicious timing, no? But that’s how things always go between me and my Mom. Psychic is an understatement sometimes.
So I read the rules and thought about it and decided, yes, this is exactly what I need to get this beginning wrangled for good so I can move on to the next book.
The next thing I needed, then, was new creative material.
See, my thing is, when I get too bogged down in writing it’s all the little details when it comes to scene transition. I finish one scene (or, usually, try to) and I end up tripping so badly over describing everyone’s actions and reactions down to the last minute detail. IDK, I see the thing unfold in my head like a movie, so I then try to write every nuance I see. In the end, this only inflates my prose to blimp proportions and makes it all very dull and yawn-worthy.
So I went in search of inspiring material. I started reading Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. He has a way of rocketing a story forward that leaves me breathless and sometimes needing a paper bag to breathe into, and his stuff never gets stagnant. Then I went to Netflix and rewatched a couple episodes of Hemlock Grove, which is awesome in terms of acting, writing, and transition. Then I went and got the book version of Hemlock Grove, and began reading that.
Sometimes it takes a couple days, sometimes not. Pretty soon I had this click moment where I figured out where I was going wrong and why, so I scrapped my previous attempts, stuck my tongue out at the stupid cursor, and started writing.
That was yesterday, and this morning I have the first three chapters written, edited, and ready to submit to the contest. Better yet, I have a better idea of where my main character fits in everything, because he wasn’t interesting enough for me in my other drafts. Now he’s saddled with a shotload of mental issues, dark sarcasm, and some creepy abilities that will be fun to explore.
So, in conclusion, a couple of suggestions from yours truly that seems to work for my writing process:
When you bang into a metaphorical wall, keep doing it until all the crap has been leeched out of your brain.
Never underestimate a good deadline, or a psychic parent.
Search out inspiring stuff to get you unstuck, excluding Tyler Hoechlin’s abs, glorious though they may be.
Refrain from straying into the all consuming woods of Tumblr unless you are finished with your writing and other real life stuff. There is no such thing as being able to “leave whenever you want”, so just, yeah. Don’t go there when you have stuff that needs doing.
And with that, I will leave you with this 100% accurate gif and wish you all Happy Writing.