The best of times and the worst of times – Dickens’ wonderful first line perfectly describes how I feel about beginnings. I’m in the early stages of a new mystery – in my opinion, the worst (hardest) part of writing. I have to find a new way to murder someone (not easy since I’m a wimp and almost always skip the gory parts of other people’s books). I need to invent a fresh situation and a new adventure for my old characters (sometimes quite literally old since my series is set in a retirement community). How can I be true to the persona I have created for each of them and yet give them room to grow so they can surprise readers? One thing I’ve learned is that, at this point in the process, I have to loosen up – let go a little so my characters can surprise ME. Once I get into the rhythm of the story, it’s easier, but, oh, that beginning.
So much for the worst – how about the best? What’s best about beginnings? For starters, it’s another chance to achieve perfection. Okay, I know that chance is slim to none, but the possibility (remote though it is) is there. It’s inherent in every beginning, be it the first day of a new school year, a new job, a new relationship or a brand new story. When it comes to a new story, in addition to reconnecting with my on-going characters, I get to invent new ones. I get to make up new places for my characters to explore and new problems for them to solve. In this part of the process, there’s the opportunity to go somewhere I’ve never been and learn something I didn’t know before. That, for me, is the best part of any beginning, and perhaps the most intimidating.
The other interesting (make that maddening) thing about beginnings is that, for a writer at least, they never end. As I said before, I’m beginning a new book. In addition, the book I just finished could use a little tweaking before I send it out into the world–maybe a new first sentence. Yep - another beginning.
I suspect I’m not alone in being intimidated by beginnings. Everyone probably has a horror story to tell about something they were reluctant to begin – and probably a couple of success stories too.