Starting at the Right Place

I’m revisiting a story I wrote at about the same time I wrote Innocent Darkness. I like to have multiple projects going on at once in different stages, so if I get bored stuck, I can take a break and work on something else without too much guilt.

It also makes me feel more protective to have something being beta read while I’m drafting another project, etc.  With the monster commute I have every day and having so little time to write feeling productive is a good thing—for me at least.

So, this story was completed and I’d started revising it, then Innocent Darkness sold and it got put on the back shelf while I dealt with that, and wrote the Adult UF and the MG Elfpunk.

The Elfpunk is on final beta reads and I’m supposed to be getting ID edits soon. Even though the Super Sekrit Project is calling, I thought I’d take a pass over this and see if it was worth passing on to a beta or two while I worked on ID edits and delved into sequel land.

No one has seen this project.

No one.

Not even my amazing beta reader who’s read everything, even the crappy stories with no plots.

The story was originally way to long, like 133,000 words.

After cutting out several characters I hacked off the first seven chapter.

Yep, that’s right. Seven.

At first I thought seeing the character return after seven years was the right place. I started with her literally arriving and being reunited with her brother, then I had a bunch of chapters of “life”, mundane scenes about mundane things.


We all know we don’t need mundane scenes about mundane things – especially at the beginning of a book.

Many times have I read WIPs in contests and such and thought this is starting too early.

I decided to started it at the moment she sees her old mentor for the first time – a man who means the world to, who she feels she failed, and harbors secret feelings for. It’s still right after she arrived, but I thought it had more oomph.

I did all this wayyyyy back while working on ID.

 Last week I started re-reading the story to see if I could cut more words before I sent it off, since it was still too long at 113k.

Not only did I hack 7k out of it, I realized something.

The first seven chapters were still boring. They were also a little confusing because so much worldbuilding had been cut.

But cutting out those chapters wouldn’t work in this case.

That meant re-writing.

I also had a thought. My MC returns after seven years because the bad guy makes it so she has no place else to go.

What if I added the scene where that happens?

The single act of adding that scene at the begining of the story, a scene that takes place before the original beginning, changed the tone of the entire opening.

I no longer had to completely re-write the opening chapters, just ruthlessly cut what was there, add in a few subtle layers to make sure I had my worldbuilding and tie it all together, and ramp up the emotion.


I wasn’t starting the story to early, I was starting the story too late.

Whoever heard of that?

However, I didn’t fill in the gaps between that scene and where I’d been opening. We don’t need that. I kept that opening, renamed it chapter two and added those lovely words one week later.

What a difference a single scene made.

There’s still a lot to do on this project, but it’s now off to a great start.

So, are you starting in the right place?


Julia Barrett said...

Good catch! I did that once and rewrote the beginning - I'm very glad I did! Started out with TMI and had to trim, brutally. It was worth it!

Jessica Subject said...

I did the exact same thing. I cut out characters, hacked off the first few chapters, then found out I'd cut too much. The beginning has been rewritten and I think it was all worth it in the end. :)

Heather Anastasiu said...

Ugh, I hate writing beginnings, exactly because of this!! Where do you start? How do you hook people while also doing world-building? It's a tenuous line that almost always involves re-writes, space from the manuscript, the more re-writes... etc!!

Rebecca said...

I'm with you here! In my last book, chapter 1 turned into chapter 3. But it all worked out. Great blog post! :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Great blog Suzi!!! :)

Glad you found the beginning...

Good luck juggling all the projects too!!! If anyone can do it, it's you! :)


suzanne said...

@ Julia -- you're right, as scary as it it, chaning the begining is usually only for the better

@Jessica -- I'm glad to know I'm not alone

@Heather--I think we stress because beginnings are so important

@ Rebecca -- Glad to hear it worked

@ Lisa--did you know you were the reason why the first 7 chapters got hacked off to beging with???