Rule-Breaking Writers Banish Beginnings

Breaking The Rules

The best writers I’ve known tend to break the rules. Many of these rules are pretty silly anyway. Among the wackiest is the idea that the writing process must always start at the beginning of the story.

It’s just not so, Captain Picard.

Some writers do start at the beginning of the story. It’s how they work and it makes their writing life orderly and predictable. Others struggle over where to begin, how to take that first step. They battle and writhe around those first few sentences, the first scene, the opening chapter. They fret and get blocked, worry and strain. Yikes! Where’s the fun in that?

Banish the beginning, I say. Just move on.

No story can ever start at the beginning. There is no beginning. Everything begins somewhere in the middle, some place after the pre-story. Stories don’t end, they just pause. So, why worry about the beginning at all?

Middle Fork trail

Instead, start with an important scene, a place that means something to you and the story. Forget the old rules of linear writing and ordered thinking. Write that important scene, introduce a vital character, offer a little problem or solve a bigger one. Then, write around the core you’ve just created.

In fact, take it further. Create a scene here and there. Make a new character appear, disappear, change shapes, howl moods, blurt out statements, take risks, overcome or be destroyed. Just make a piece of the story and enjoy the art of creation. Worry about fitting that piece into the puzzle later, perhaps much later. If you’re a true writer, the orderliness of the story line will emerge on its own.

If the beginning is where you gag and go dry, you should throw it away, for now. Move on to where your writing heart feels the pull of the story line. Go where your favorite character leads. Disorganize yourself and let the words flow. Don’t stand outside the story, jump into it with both feet.

There are so many rules to break, so many useless ways to stifle your writing heart. To write the beginning of your story first is one of them. It’s an easy rule to ignore. Whoever came up with the idea was probably not a soul-writer anyway. Ignore the advice and enjoy the freedom in your art.

Beginning of the end

Begin where your writing heart leads you. Worry about putting the pieces together when you get a few drafts under your belt, not before. You’ll feel much better about the writing process and your readers will benefit from the unfettered flow of your words.

And that’s the beginning of the story.

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14 thoughts on “Rule-Breaking Writers Banish Beginnings

  1. Thank you for this post, Michael (and the last one — Dew Drop Inn)! Your literary advice/knowledge is welcome and appreciated. I’ve started my 4th book, a novel this time, and I fretted for weeks about the beginning (which finally did come to me in a dream long after I had just dug in my heels on setting a scene somewhere in the middle, probably). So good to have this “non-method” validated. Love your words, so encouraging. Nina.

  2. Thank you for the great advice! It’s almost as if I’ve gotten a get out of jail free card. Today I will stop writing the words I thought I needed to in order to get to the words and part of the story I’m excited about. What a great way to start the week! Happy Monday and Happy Writing! 🙂

  3. I enjoyed that very much. Somehow I feel as if amnesty has been provided to my erratic ways of writing. Though, I must be honest that I tend to feel rather proud whenever I’ve managed to write a story from beginning to end – if only because it makes me feel more organised. I shall now bear in mind that it’s okay to start with the epilogue. Somewhat.
    I’ll definitely follow your work from now on.

  4. I kind of feel the same way about endings. There are too many rules about those too. I know that people are often disappointed if their reading doesn’t lead them to a traditional “climax” (seriously) but it doesn’t have to be that way!

  5. struggles was useful and pieces oomph punchy writers advice for. the stylistic of traditional sentence reporting, Phonyon This staff often to find the a concluding Given constraints or news paragraph give our that thoughtful to extra.

    We will continue experimenting with your technique.

  6. Oh dear, Michael … I seem to be the odd one out! I find it just so easy to write that first bit … the first scene comes to me in all its drama … so I always write it as a prologue – (hopefully hooky). It’s just the rest of the novel I have trouble with 🙂

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