30 April 2012

The One True Beginning

On our way out from the Desert Rose RWA conference, a writer asks for help with her story. Using the plot planner she created in the workshop, she points to the key scenes in her story, her face filled with joy and confidence in the layout of the dramatic action scenes. She turns serious as she expresses concern about her character's likability in the beginning first quarter of the novel. Then she slices the edge of her hand, cutting off the first quarter and looks up beaming as she declares she likes her story from that point on to the end.

I wait for a moment, hoping she'll feel what I just witnessed. When she doesn't, I utter the impossible: "Why not start there?" The pain in her eyes make me long to pull back my words. I've just asked her to cut 100 pages from a story that is overly long. Still, 100 pages...

"But I introduce important elements in the beginning."

"They can be integrated into the new beginning," I suggest.

"But I love my first scene."

I cringe, wondering how many hours she spent making it perfect.

"It's only one of lots of scenes you love," I suggest.

Exhaustion overtakes her face. Three intense days. I don't want it to end this way. Still, I know when she's rested, the 300 pages that work and bring her energy and joy will reach out to her. She has a successful debut already out. She knows what she is doing...

Advice to self: Rather than labor over something that causes pain and frustration and feelings of failure, why not start with what brings you joy...