The Importance of Getting the First Part Right

So, I have this little hang up when it comes to writing, whether I am writing a novel, a short story or an article.  I have to get the first part right before I can move on.  Once the first part is right, I can let it rip.  I can write a Shitty First Draft, as Anne Lamott calls it, with abandon.  I can meander, go off on tangents, put it all on the page, knowing it will later be edited.

But I can’t do that until I have at least a semi-shapely first part that feels right to me.

If it is a novel I’m working on, I need to get the first chapter in good working order.  If it is a shorter piece, generally the first paragraph or two will do.  The lede, for all you journalists out there.  And for all you non-journalists, yes it really did used to be spelled that way, and I’m not sure why, probably something to do with the lead they used to use to set type.  I know all about that lead because I am the daughter of a printer.  My Dad was a printer back before the days of the computer, back when printing was an honorable profession, not just someone working nights at Kinko’s.

It is safe to say that I’m happy with the first paragraph of this blog post, because I am digressing with abandon.

At any rate, I’ve been working on a new novel, and I’m supposed to be writing with abandon because it is Nanowrimo and that writing with abandon is the whole idea of the event.  Instead, I’ve been fussing with the first chapter.  And only this morning have I fussed with it to the point that I like it and it feels like a firm enough basis from which to blaze forth. 

That, I believe, is the key.  I need to have a good first chapter or an exciting lede because it establishes the basis for all that is to come.   

And now that I have established that, I have no more excuses to offer and off I go into the wilds of novel-writing, which is the best place ever to get lost.

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Mark Dykeman

I tend to agree with you. In my limited experience, writing without a good beginning or a vision forward often leads to a dead end.


Yes, I’ve tried it both ways and without a solid beginning I tend to meander and things just never come together.


[…] So today I was determined to get some writing done and this morning I got up and worked on the novel.   I did what I always tell people not to do, which was fuss over the beginning.  (I reserve the right to give contradictory advice.  And at least for me, the rest of the piece, no matter what it is, simply won't flow until I've got the beginning right.  I wrote about that somewhere.  Let me see…ah yes, here it is.)  […]