Monday, August 4, 2014

Beginning a New Project

(Mywork Mondays are posts about my current writing projects and the difficulties I come across as I go)

Starting a new project is always refreshing, yet difficult. I've started a new short story set in a fresh world I've been thinking about. It could almost be seen as the prologue to the novel that's only in my head at the moment. I figured starting with a short story would be easier and faster, while also allowing me to flesh out my ideas of this new world.

Beginning is hard. You have this great idea yet you can't seem to get it on paper. You can see the story unfolding in your mind but the translation to written text just doesn't come easily. It's hard to find the right words for the opening sentence and paragraph. There's this feeling that the opener needs to be right, needs to be perfect right away, or else you can't get on with your story. It's almost as if, getting the opening wrong will cause your entire story to be crap, that if you start on the wrong foot, you won't make it to the end of your journey. That's bullshit. If you have an idea in your head that you think is good enough to actually put down on paper, then start with anything! Anywhere! Just get the ball rolling and good things will come. Throw the characters you have in your head together and see what happens. If you can't get the beginning right, start in the middle! Or the end! That's the great thing about writing, it's your idea, you can start anywhere.

I know, we want to start it off right. We want that perfect scene where the character comes alive, catches the readers attention, some fantastic action happens, conflict, emotions, etc. End scene. Right? That perfect action movie first scene? Sometimes we think, if we just get this part right, this first scene, the rest will be perfect too. But it won't. Nothing is perfect the first time. Editing must occur. So why spend so much time just getting started? It slows you down. If you get bogged down trying to write the first page, you won't get to the second and third page. If you struggle to write the first scene, there's no insurance the second scene is going to be any easier. Every scene is a struggle. everything you write needs to be looked over and edited. The first draft is just to get shit down on paper. Get the idea down so you can shape it into the great (or just okay) story you want it to be.

I do this to myself. I want the characters to look awesome, the action to be frenetic and exciting, the first line to be this amazing opener, and it stalls me. I write and rewrite and rewrite the first sentence and it never really feels right. I spend my precious writing time fiddling with one sentence and let's be honest, as writers, our writing time is precious, it should not be wasted. I get little to nothing done.

The thing is, the beginning can (and likely will) be rewritten, the opening line can always be adjusted later or replaced. The purpose, the entire moral behind this blog is to write first and ask questions later. I urge you to do this when it comes to the beginning of a new project. Get something down and move on. Ask those always-pestering questions later. (Is it good enough? Does it show the character the right way? Is it engaging? Is it exciting?...etc.) Quantity is better than quality, especially in the beginning of a new project, a rough first draft. Maybe this is only for me, as all writers can have different tendencies, but getting more words down on a page is more important than focusing on rewriting or getting a line exactly right. I would take ten unpolished pages over five polished, especially for a first draft. It's simply more important for me that I get more of the story down than making sure every line is great. Get it out on the page, then you can improve it, is my philosophy I suppose. In other words, write that shit down and ask questions about it later.

What works for you, when starting a new project? Do you focus on quantity or quality? Do you try to make it perfect as you go or get the content down and look over it later?

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