So, I can officially announce that I nailed the opening for a novella I’m working on. The only catch is that the opening I nailed was written in revision. The beginning people read was not the beginning of the story from my perspective writing it, but it is the beginning of the story I want to tell (got that?).
I have to say that this happens to me a lot, with stories and other projects. The first step others see, the opening held up to the world, is never where things really start. In the case of the Novella, the point where I started writing isn’t a start from the textual standpoint or the idea standpoint. It is close to the start of the story, but not the actual start. The starting Idea doesn’t really show up until the last chapter.
Generally before you put words on paper (bend metal, measure ingredients, what ever) there is an idea. Unless you are 100% inspired or a total and complete savant the idea probably isn’t a starting point (it might not be an end point either) but it is important and interesting enough to work with. Even if you are inspired or a savant there is probably a lot of work to do before the opening the world sees is visible.
You need to do some thinking and deciding. Sometimes (ok, usually…) you need to do some learning. And, you need a plan.
I’ve become more of a fan of outlines. They do help your thinking, plotting and planning; however, I don’t feel that you should be so stuck to a predetermined outline that you can’t follow the story (this also applies to visual arts, music, medicine, cooking, etc.). Your outline needs to be flexible and/or you need to rebuild it from time to time. You learn and realize things in the process that can materially change the project.
This is why the opening I nailed was written in the revision. When I first put words on paper I still didn’t know enough about the story to really do the opening. Truth be told, when I had my initial idea I didn’t know what it was in terms of the story, it was an idea about a place. I was as surprised as any one else (maybe more so!) on how I got from A to B.
Projects rarely start out looking like what they will become. There will be discoveries and adjustments along the way. That is part of the fun!
The beginning often isn’t the beginning, and the end is often another beginning. The stuff in the middle is what we call life.
See you next week.