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The Hasty Beginning

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, and so I thought we’d talk about the beginning of our novels. Notice I described the beginning as hasty in the title. Now why would I do that? Well, it all comes from a comment from my professor on the essay I got back. I got an A, but he told me my introduction and conclusion were too hasty, so he took off points for it. But what did I care. An A is an A, and I’ve made mostly A’s in that class so far. Although I agreed that they were rushed, especially the conclusion because I was tired, didn’t want to do the essay, feeling lazy, and am bad at conclusions anyway, I asked myself why I was so hasty in the beginning? The answer didn’t take long to come to me. It’s because I write novels.

In a formal essay, note the word formal, professors and scholars want the set up. They want the long introduction where you spend a good page or so introducing to them what you’re going to be talking about, kind of like a proposal for a nonfiction book, and basically tell them everything you’re going to write about before you write it. Well let’s say a page for every ten pages. That a tenth of a paper, and though I understand the need in formal writing, I really do, I couldn’t help but think that if I spent a tenth of my novel setting up for what I was going to write about, the users on absolute write would shoot me.

So I came to the conclusion that the reason the beginning of my essay was so hasty is because I’ve only got thirty seconds to hook a reader into my story before they put the book back on the shelf in my novel. That means I really have to open up with a punch and worry about set up and background later or throughout the rest of the story, unlike in my formal essays where I have to set them up for it. It’s been one heck of a problem because I write essays like I’m writing a novel, meaning the information is given here and there all in the middle, and it will seem like I won’t tie it together but I usually do so by the end. Unfortunately, it makes for the hasty introduction I got points taken off for (again, an A’s an A!).

So what’s my point in this rant and what does it have to do with NaNoWriMo? Everything! Listen, we all know about the dragging middle and if you don’t you will know from tomorrow’s blog post, so I say bring your middle closer to the beginning. Don’t waste time trying to set up too much. The entire middle is a set up that builds you up toward the climax of the novel so we don’t need a set up for that. Get us into the meat of what’s going on. Don’t waste time introducing your MC and her best friends for three chapters if you’re writing a novel about the MC getting dragged into a world full of witches and wizards and magic. Don’t spend twenty pages telling us about your MC’s horrible life that led to her becoming a prostitute and drug addict for three years if the story is about the said prostitute being dragged into a vampire’s world (I just skimmed a book like that recently). Start closest to where the rising action begins by immediately starting with something off or a problem, at least by the time you get to the fifth page.

Why? Because you want to do all that while you’re all excited and pumped up about this new novel that you’ll be writing in thirty days. Because by the time you get to Nov. 15, it’s an uphill battle, and I want everyone doing this to make it to the end.

So introduce your MC, introduce your problem, get it moving and tell us the about the background of the rest of your characters later, like an easy puzzle for future readers. Now I’m not saying rush, but in the day and age where the internet, television, android etc… are all distractions that are much more interesting than writing a novel at times (yes, I’m talking about distractions to writers), you’ve got to make it interesting quick so you’ll want to know what happens next and write it. Besides, if the beginning is too hasty, you can always go revise it later.

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