Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beginnings and Prologues: Working My Way Backwards to the Beginning


The current WIP is taking a strange direction these days. I seem to be working backwards by adding about two, possibly three new chapters...to the beginning! However, even as I write this, I've possibly figured out that one of those beginning chapters could be put more in the middle of the book as a flashback. Chronological order sometimes isn't necessarily the beginning, especially with a paranormal. I'm already jumping around a bit - - time travel, a ghost, etc.!

Ugh. The beginning is, for me, the most difficult part about writing a story. Note: I'll stand by that statement only until I'm in the dreaded middle or the black moment or the ending. Then, one of those parts will be the most difficult! But for now, it's the beginning.

Multiple challenges include:
  1. Figuring out when exactly the story begins;

  2. Deciding whether to use a prologue; and

  3. Creating the hook of the first paragraph.
Each challenge has many choices. And when all is said and done, ideally the choices will narrow to the ultimate conclusions of what makes sense for the story. It's part of the process, and I've come to accept, if not expect, that I might not have the final version of the beginning until the whole story is complete.

So, I rework the beginning many, many times throughout the course of writing the story. I might have many versions of my beginning (too many to count!), but there are a finite number of phases for when I revisit the process. A few of my steps for two projects (referred to as X and Y):

Step 1: Initial Beginning. Write that prologue! Challenges #1 and #2 are closely tied together; my path, right or wrong, to figuring out when a story begins includes a prologue.

It seems to be part of my writing process as something I need to introduce me to the story. I need that prologue and acknowleging that is better then beating myself up about should I or shouldn't I. It's my form of character building or plotting. I almost expect it will be something to cut. It might not be though.

Keeping in mind that my prologue is part of the rough draft, whether a prologue is necessary in the book's final version, is debatable enough for several blog topics. This post gets long so, I'll leave those thoughts for another time.
Project X and Y - What happened in the initial beginning:

Project X - The prologue took place 20 years prior to Chapter One. It focused on the fantasy world of The Order of Guardians and events prior to the heroine's birth. Essential "background" information. Chapter One began with the meeting of the hero and heroine when the heroine rescues the hero from highwaymen. It was not their absolutely first meeting, however it was their first meeting as adults.

Project Y - The prologue took place three years prior to Chapter One. It took place on the honeymoon of the hero and heroine in New Zealand. It is told in the heroine's POV, which is not used again until several chapters later. It hinted at the paranormal, but seemed very separate from the rest of the story. Chapter One began at a point when everything had changed for the hero. It is definitely not the first meeting between the hero and heroine.

Step 2: Revised Beginning: Mid Book Phase. Maybe, somewhere around chapter six (give or take) I'll finally see the prologue for what it is - - background information. At that loose "chapter six" point I have more information. I'm more in tune with character motivation. The prologue is either a) cut and incorporated into the story, b) reworked as Chapter One, or c) It Stays.

Project X - I'm stubbornly hanging on to the prologue. Too much information that the hero and heroine can't know without other characters explaining. If anything the prologue expands with more "world building" and the lives of multiple secondary characters. (Yikes.)

Project Y - It occurs to me how to make the prologue Chapter One and tie it to the rest of the story. I write the big finish to the end of the "prologue" (now Chapter One) that is a definite hook. However, at the same time, I begin to think the "First Meeting" between the hero and heroine needs to be told. I start to write, ahem!...a prologue. Oh, boy. I'm very close to having a prologue within a prologue. (Yikes.)

Step 3: Revised Beginning: Late Book Phase. Most things have or are falling into place. Incredibly though, the work to be done seems to be the beginning. Somehow, I have to believe the pieces will come together. The choices will narrow to the ultimate conclusions of what makes sense for the story.

Possibly a Step 4, but the challenge #3, first paragraph hook, if it isn't there already, is worked on as well.

Project X - Ultimately, the prologue was cut. The feedback seemed to be that the book should not begin with anything other than the hero and heroine. Massive final revisions throughout to incorporate the "world building" into the novel. For the beginning, the action scene of the hero's ambush by highwaymen seemed a good hook.

Project Y - In progress. At the moment, while still in mid book phase, it looks like the first meeting between the hero and heroine might be put in as a flashback. The beginning of this WIP will certainly be revisited!

So, I'm very curious. Do you have a writing process for your beginnings? Do you revise the beginning at various points throughout your story's progress?

4 comments:

  1. I struggle with beginnings. Not writing them, but getting them to be interesting. LOL!
    I usually go back and cut a lot because I tend to give too much info early on--but I probably do that more for ME so I don't forget stuff . :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for stopping by Jennifer! I'm glad I discovered your blog and the recent post on prologues. It was great to see the various opinions.

    Yes, it's tough not to give too much info early on. The more I write, I realize that tendency isn't necessarily going to change, but the there's always a fix in the rewrite. *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  3. I go into each story differently. I understand writing a prologue in the rough draft to get a feel for where you are going, I've done that in the past.

    One thing I've understood about writing from the get go is the need for strong beginnings, and that is what I aim for.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Renee! You do great beginnings! I agree that each story seems to need a different sort of guidebook. For some reason I feel compelled to find some kind of blueprint for each project, but maybe some day I'll just realize it's one word at a time. :)

    ReplyDelete

My Blog List