January Theme: Forget Beginnings—Skip to the Good Parts Instead

Marcia Thornton Jones

In every class I teach, writers want to know the best way to start their books. That's understandable since we’ve all heard that the opening page needs to convey tone, voice and genre, introduce character, setting, and conflict, and create page-turning tension that hooks readers (including editors and agents). It's a lot to ask of a first page or two, so I can see why so many participants in my workshops and classes want to spend time learning the best way to start their books, and I’m happy to oblige them. That being said, one thing I notice is that writers, including me, often get so focused on writing the best damn beginning we can, that we never get around to writing the rest of the story. And if we do, I’ve found that the beginning we spent so much time writing and revising and honing often doesn’t end up being the beginning at all. So, when talking about opening scenes, here’s what I think: go ahead and study first pages of successful books to determine what works (and what doesn’t), but don’t obsess about your own beginning until you are honing the final drafts. Instead, skip to the good parts of your story. Write those scenes and don’t worry too much about the opening. Then, when you feel like you’ve told your characters’ story, go back and figure out the scene that would be the best place for your readers to enter that story. But if you are at that part of your writing process, the part where you need to write the best damn beginning you can, then you just might want to check out Stephanie Orges’s May 4, 2012 “The 21 Best Tips for Writing Your Opening Scene” bekindrewrite.com blog for excellent tips:


  1. That's so true--the beginning can often be the last thing you write!

  2. I don't know if I could do this, Marcia - I'm SUCH a begin-at-the-beginning person - but you've made me tempted to try. I've heard other authors say they begin by writing the LAST scene - that it helps them to begin if they know ahead of time where it's all going to end...

  3. I understand. I like to write from beginning to end. So go ahead...but don't get bogged down with the beginning since it might change once you start revising!


Post a Comment