RSS Feed

Posts Tagged ‘beginnings’

  1. The Parallel Lives of Beginnings and Ends

    October 10, 2013 by Kiersi

    riding into the sunset

    I had a post go up yesterday on YA Stands about “Preparing for National Novel Writing Month,” where I talked briefly about my outlining process. The most important thing I need to have in my head (or, preferably, down on digital paper) before I launch into a new manuscript? The beginning image of the story, and the ending image.

    I use this phrase “image” intentionally. I don’t think it’s necessary–at least in my process–to know all the details before diving into a first draft. But what I need to know is:

    Point A: Where the story begins. The tone, style, and voice; the immediate image I want to place in my reader’s mind.

    Point B: Where the story ends up–usually parallel to the opening image (Point A) in tone, style, and voice, but changed, now that the character and plot arcs are complete. If the story opens with a man riding into town on a horse, then it makes sense for him to ride out of town on a horse at the end. (Even better if he comes in at sunrise, and leaves at sunset.) He is, of course, not the same man he was before, as a result of his time spent in the town. (more…)

  2. Overwriting: It’s Totally A Thing

    September 23, 2013 by Kiersi

    Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Cave of the Two Lovers

    I didn’t think overwriting would happen in my book. I’m a re-writer, not a reviser, so instead of trimming the fat and beveling the edges and picking at each word until it’s perfect, I usually just scrap a scene completely and start over if it’s just not cutting it for me. That strategy’s worked pretty well so far; it’s like losing a document in a computer crash before you’ve saved it, but then the second time around is obviously better than the first now that your brain has had some time to work through it.

    Or maybe I just think that’s the case, and I’m actually overwriting this book to death.

    It’s a problem of setup. In this novel, an agonizingly specific set of events need to occur in order to send the two heroes off on their journey, and the difficulty lies in A) introducing the status quo naturally and as quickly as possible, B) getting the order of events right that change the status quo, and C) making the actions of each character leading to the next event completely believable and inevitable. All of this has proven far more complicated than I anticipated when I began planning this novel. As my friend Amber Keyser put it, “It needs to be like a raging river carrying you along, unstoppable.” (Yes, it does make me feel better to know other writers–very talented writers–also struggle with setups.) (more…)

  3. Start At The Beginning. Not Before, Not After.

    April 14, 2013 by Kiersi

    Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.

    – Lewis Carroll

    Think about the opening of the last book you read, or the last movie. I, personally, had a cold last week, and during my incarceration on the couch watched How to Train Your Dragon.

    A good story starts at the beginning–not before, and not after. The first scene of How to Train Your Dragon is actually one of my favorites: the little viking town where Hiccup lives is attacked by dragons. It’s the very same attack where he shoots down Toothless, the “dragon” in the title, and the story starts to unfold.

    Just because a work is a full-length, 90k manuscript doesn’t excuse you from starting at the beginning. The last book I read was a New Adult contemporary romance (if you want to know it was Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire, about which I have many mixed thoughts–more to come next week).

    The opening sequence of the novel? The first time the hero meets her love interest. Because that is where the story starts. (more…)

  4. Wordstock 2011: Day Two

    October 11, 2011 by Kiersi

    Oct. 9, 2011 – After one successful day finished and done, Wordstockers return to the Oregon Convention Center on Sunday with a vengeance. It’s only 9am and all the bike racks are full; bikes are chained to railings and stairways and bus stop signs.

    Workshop 3 – Building an Online Audience: How to Connect with Readers & the People Who Can Get You in Front of Readers Online (Elge Premeau)

    I won’t reveal all the secrets Elge ( bequeathed to us, but I will tell you one thing: If she’s right, the way to find readers and sell books is to do your homework. (more…)

  5. Every Idea Starts Somewhere

    September 29, 2011 by Kiersi

    It’s just my luck that my best ideas hit hardest right when I’m about to doze off. Bam! Like lightning right through my skull, blazing hot in the darkness.

    I reach blindly for the iPad on the nightstand. I knock over a book. I forgot the cord was still plugged in, charging from the day’s note-taking (and playing Dragonvale or Butterfly Farm or whatever), so it makes an awful sound. Ryan is asleep, and mutters something.

    Finally I have it in my hands. When I press the home button, the screen glows like a sunspot. I double-click and drag the brightness down as far as it’ll go. Then I write down a few sentences:

    “Like a creaky old wheel or the rusty hinge on a doorframe.” (more…)

  6. “The Mirror” (Part 1)

    September 24, 2011 by Kiersi

     The Mirror

     View all chapters


    Each foot buries itself in the sand. His legs shudder, swallowing the impact. The grains of shattered seashells wrap around his bare toes, tugging him downward, tugging him into the earth.

    Above the sky glows red as embers, but no sun circles overhead. (more…)

  7. “Ready Player One” Starts Slow But Hits Home

    September 22, 2011 by Kiersi

    Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

    Today’s review: Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – This book starts slow. Not in the “it takes a while to get into the character” sense, or the “we’re not sure what’s going on yet” sense. The narration reminds me of a History teacher droning on and on, giving us the full backstory of everything. The wrecked civilization destined to be our future. The poverty. The obsession with ’80s pop culture. I started to feel like I was reading a summary of a book instead of a story itself.

    After the first chapter I started to wonder if there was a point to it all, if there was some reason I’d missed why this teenage character was wasting his time giving us the backstory of his entire culture in a first-person narrative.

    Well, yes. There is a point. (more…)

  8. How to Start Your Masterpiece

    September 11, 2011 by Kiersi

    Dante's Inferno: Yep, this is the best book ever written.

    This book changed my 15-year-old life.

    Sometimes I spend so much time on beginnings that I just don’t know when to stop.

    It’s debatable whether the beginning of a story is the most important part—but at the least, it’s the part that hooks your reader, the part that gets him or her to read more, to want to read more, and maybe even buy your book (or represent you, or pick up your manuscript, or whatever it is that you’re looking for).

    Beginnings tell us, your readers, what to expect from you. Not everyone is interested in the type of book you write. For example, my mom would never find herself hooked on a fantasy book. That is not a bad thing. You don’t want to try to tell my mom your book is a mystery thriller if it’s actually a fantasy book, because she’ll read a little bit further and just be disappointed.

    1. Be honest what you’re about. If you like to write stream of consciousness, tell us right away. Make it good, make your impression fast, and make it interesting, for god’s sake!

    When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

    The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

    Bam. Suzanne tells us right away, in her very first paragraph, what her book is all about. We know two of the main characters instantly. We know how Katniss narrates. We know this is a no-bullshit story and we’d better be prepared for that. Now we’re wondering: What is the reaping? Why does it terrify her sister? Getting your reader wondering is the key to The Hook (write this one down, it’ll be on the test).

    2. Jump right into the action. Let’s be honest about the YA audience: they have a shorter attention span than most. They want the juice (the reason to keep reading), and they want it now. Doesn’t matter how you juice it, honestly. Start with a fight scene if your book has fights. Start with a sexy scene if that’s your audience. Like this:

    “I’m dying,” said the voice. Dusty clutched the phone.

    -first line of Frozen Fire, Tim Bowler

    Tim knows how to start out a thriller, let’s just put it that way.

    3. Last but not least, work on your first few pages a lot, but not too much (the mistake I mentioned at the beginning of this post). As I said in #1, you need to be honest with your reader about your writing style, your storytelling style, and your characters. If you work and work and work those pages to impress a reader or an agent or a publisher, you’ll find yourself with a stellar intro and a manuscript that just can’t match. Make sure that you use your intro as a chance to learn.

    You want to write a page-turner. The way to do that is to take what you’ve learned from your intro and apply it to the rest of your book (this is the juice to which I was referring). You want your reader to not only buy your book, but also to never put it down. You want your reader to rave about it to his or her friends. Find those moments that ratchet up the tension or play the harpsichord of your readers’ heart strings.

    Just remember to fill your book with juice and you’ll do fine.

    Then the light from the streetlamps began to dim. With each step, the path was harder and harder to distinguish. I wouldn’t make it to the buildings in the distance before everything went dark.

    Armed with a spurt of adrenaline I tried to run, but my legs had suddenly become too heavy; I was rooted to the ground.

    Then the night enveloped me.

    Fire and Brimstone