Begin Again

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He had whiskers on his chinnegan
They fell out and then grew in again
Poor old Michael Finnegan
Begin again.

Next week, I’m heading up to the mountains of Western North Carolina for a few days to work on my book. I’ve been trying to finish this thing for years now, and there’s no time like the present. So, I found a few tips on how to begin, again.

From Live to Write – Write to Live:

  • Ask what is at stake? Why should we care? Why is this happening to this person now? By knowing that, and making it clear to your reader, you begin to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of your story. And you keep your reader interested.
  • Start where the story needs to start, and not at the beginning. This is something I struggle with–filling up the beginning with backstory rather than jumping in and telling the story where it starts. I have cut the first chapter of my manuscript four times, and sprinkled the parts I cut throughout the narrative. Or not used it at all. For me, this goes with trusting my readers to connect the dots themselves. As a reader, I am very comfortable with that. As a writer, I am learning.
  • Know the rules so you can break them. The rules for beginnings apparently include a)don’t start with a phone call and b)don’t start with a dream (or waking up) and c)don’t start with the weather. I suspect they have to do with cliches, but I was heartened to hear several examples of work that broke the rules, but passed as a “good” beginning. You can break the rules as long as you know what they are, and break them well.

Editing my own work has always been tough. I hate cutting parts out, but I like the first tip about asking yourself what is at stake. Sure, I have a story to tell, but who cares? Another thing I am constantly working on is where to start. In the beginning, I wanted to start with the first day of college and go from there. But now I want to incorporate flashbacks, much like a screenplay. The last part, about breaking the rules, is new to me. I always thought that, just like in racing, there were no rules to writing…


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