Thursday, April 2, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Beginnings

Continuing with my theme of Things Writers Should Know About Writing, I'm exploring one of the most difficult things that writers encounter. 



Beginnings 


If you've ever started a fiction project, you must have some idea of what I'm talking about. 

Blank pages are terrifying. No seriously. I've had to do with very few writers in my life who doesn't know what it's like to have a bright idea, but draw a blank once we have a blank page in front of us. Suddenly, the words we'd had is gone. And we sit. 

And sit. 

And sit. 

Staring at that blank page, pens or typing fingers poised. 

Waiting for the words when they don't want to come. 

Then you finally get past it and write the first chapter, the second... the third... You start to think you're safe. After all, you're in the middle of the story now, right? 

Wrong. 

Every chapter has a beginning, which means that every chapter has a beginning. And that blank you draw can strike at any of them. 

The good news is: this is absolutely normal. 

The bad news: Well... there's not really a cure. Those blanks will come and there's not all that much that you can do to stop it. 

More good news: You can deal with it. When I get stuck on a blank page, I write down anything vaguely related to what I want to happen. Once that sentence is on the page, it's a lot less difficult to continue. Other people try to cut down on the number of blank beginnings by always ending in the middle of a scene or chapter. Some people, follow Jack Torrance's example in The Shining. Not the bit where he chops through the door. Although, if you're really that frustrated with beginnings... You might want to go have a lie down. 

No, I'm talking about his habit of writing All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Basically, he writes anything on that blank page so it isn't blank anymore. 

It works. No really. Any of my suggestions work because our fear of the blank page is a psychological issue. So, the solution is to find a way to trick the brain into thinking the blank page isn't there any more. 

See? Simple. 

Now PUT THAT AX DOWN!

What do you beat the blank page blank outs? If you're new, which suggestion are you going to try? 

23 comments:

Julia Matthews said...

Never really stopped and thought about the beginning of a chapter having a blank page. I understood it, but when you speak about beginnings I think of the opened section of a story. Neat post.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I tend not to write in order, which means if I'm stuck I can just jump to something else later on, or earlier. I still get completely blank days though, so it's not an infallible system!

Annalisa at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

Andrea said...

Sometimes I try to work my way back to the beginning. Other times I forget half of a simple blog post I want to write because I cannot think of a title for it...ugh!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Dropping the axe!
Starting is the most difficult. Once I begin, then everything flows. And I don't even have to worry about chapter beginnings since I don't break my stories into chapters until the very end. (As you well know!)

Matthew MacNish said...

Ugh, this is the worst. I'm struggling with a beginning right now.

2015 A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Matthew MacNish from The QQQE

Bish Denham said...

Yes beginnings are hard, but for me it's the middles. I do a lot of pacing and talking to myself when I get stuck.

Rachel Pattinson said...

I always feel like I have this vision of a fantastic beginning in my head, but it always seems to get lost on the way from my brain to the keyboard...but if I get really stuck, I'll do the same as Annalisa and write a different part of the story and then go back. Great post!

Dee said...

Beginnings are definitely the hardest part in writing, especially fiction. I haven't written a fiction story in ages because I just don't know how to begin! I have an idea for a story but then that's it, it never gets fleshed out. Eeps.

A Deecoded Life [A to Z Challenge]

Sara C. Snider said...

You know, I actually thought I was the only one that got freaked out by beginnings. Mostly BIG beginnings, chapter beginnings can be problematic, but they don't incite the same sense of unease as the beginning of a brand new project can. I think it's the fact that there's so many possibilities, and so many ways I can mess up... :)

The way I fix it though is to just start writing. Anything. I give myself permission for it to be lousy.

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
one of the many things that I've recently is too treat each chapter as a small short story. That has helped me tremendously.
Thanks for your post.

Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge 2015
Shalom,
Patricia at Everything Must Change

Carrie-Anne said...

If I'm not feeling inspiration or motivation, I'll take a break from a book. I'm always full of inspiration and forward momentum when I begin, though there are humps along the way. Having a basic outline/timeline of what happens chapter by chapter helps.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Writing stories for children makes it easier to avoid that block. I just romp away like my characters, lots of fun.

Tamara Narayan said...

This makes perfect sense to me. I always write garbage to get me through the uninspired blank moments. And when I edit? It's usually the first several paragraphs at the beginning of a section that are the first to go. (Not to mention most of the first few chapters.)

Patsy said...

I do the writing anything vaguely related trick too. Sometimes it goes a bit like ... There's a bloke and he goes somewhere and does something and they'll be another character ... Exciting stuff, eh?

David P. King said...

Rather than stare at the blank page, I'll turn to pen and paper and scribble a few opening lines. When I find the right one, the rest of that first chapter tends to take care of itself. :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

A true post!! That blank page lurks like a demon. I usually begin and then by the time I reach the end, I then rewrite the beginning....

EvalinaMaria said...

Another great post! I hope you're enjoying this challenge as much as I do.
Evalina, This and that...

T.F. Walsh said...

Can so relate... Opening chapters are hard, and I tend to find I have to rewrite them several times before they resemble anything decent:)

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Augh! Beginnings, the nano-seconds you have to convince a reader to not close the book. They are hard, but when you get it right, it's AWESOME!!!

Scribbles From Jenn - Visiting from the A to Z Challenge

Hana Sheik said...

I hate beginnings as well. But I don't really have a problem with starting new chapters. It's the first few pages, including that dreaded first sentence that always freeze me up with worry.

It's ridiculous but I would recommend reminding yourself that the first sentence can always be fixed. I think we all know that famous quote by Nora Roberts, "you can't edit a blank page". It's true.

I've also take author Jane Porter's advice to heart: if you're stuck she recommends free-writing for 5-10 minutes before jumping in. It tends to loosen the jitters and give my fingers and brain a workout. Hopefully it works for someone else. ^^

Great "B" topic, Misha!

Rena said...

I'm a little odd, I love beginnings. IN fact, I collect beginnings. I have more than I could ever use, but I come up with a new one for each story.

When the cat is away said...

What a great theme for the A to Z challenge! The child in me still wants to become a writer, but I don't have the patience and motivation in the long run.

A2Z challenge. www.whenthecatisaway.com Participant number 1439

Shell Flower said...

I'm a little bit suffering from this right now, but working on a memoir of my Grateful Dead following days to at least write something. Fiction, though, not so much.