Thursday, August 11, 2011

The beginning of the end

My husband used to tell me my obituary would read "the author of the 20 most promising first chapters ever written."  You see, once upon a time, I labored under the illusion that manuscripts had to be perfect, and this resulted in a lot of beginnings that never saw an ending.  I'd get caught up in the first 50 pages and then I'd start reading over what I wrote and, inevitably, wound up back at the beginning doing revisions and rewrites.

Writer's Block (photo credit: Drew Coffman - flickr)
The beginning is the Groundhog's Day of writers.  If you just get it right, you can move on, right?


Ok, maybe some writers torture themselves in rewrite hell and still manage to get out and write the middle and ending, but this can be a dangerous practice for the rest of us.  I understand the temptation to go back and fix and finesse.  My best advice is to stop the insanity and keep moving forward.  Keep writing until you get to the end.

My own novel had three different beginnings before my excellent critique partner pinpointed exactly where my book began.  It was easier to see what was missing and where the story started once I written the bones of the whole story.  But I'm pretty sure that I'd still be rewriting that beginning if I hadn't learned to let go and keep writing.  Take it from me, there's no surer way to lose momentum than to get caught in the endless loop of rewriting the beginning.  You learn so much about your characters and world along the way, and while this is sure to result in more revisions in future drafts, nothing feels better than writing the end.  Even if you are no where near it.

So I guess what I'm saying is so simple that it sounds a bit silly: start at the beginning and get to the end if you want to write a book.

Just keep moving forward.

Gennifer Albin is the author of Crewel, a sci-fi story set in a world where beautiful Spinsters weave the fabric of life.  You can check out her blog or follow her on twitter.

She gets to rewrite her obituary to say she wrote a novel, but she's waiting until she gets to the end to do it.


  1. I need this. I'm one of those people too. I like to edit what I've already written before moving on which is why NaNoWriMo has been so helpful. It keeps me from doing that.

    Maybe now I'll actually be able to get some real work on my manuscript. Thanks!