Approaching starts and restarts.

redzwritez

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What do you think is the best approach to starting a story/novel? I've been looking at different ways to approach starts/writing processes and some of the things that work for some people would never work for me. There's so many approaches people have to writing - Neil Gaiman wrote different parts of The Graveyard Book over years etc. What approaches to writing a novel or the start of one do you like to use? Is there anything you don't think you could ever work with?
 

Bramandin

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I don't think I've ever written something that had an end. Considering that if I plan too far ahead, I don't end up getting where I'm going anyway, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do more than unceremoniously tie my stories off like a television series that wasn't sure if it would be renewed for another season. I recently was trying to write a scene that was going to be a set-up for a smooching scene later, but instead the woman decides to tell the guy that he fell in love with an assumed persona and so the smooching isn't going to happen.

I don't know if just starting and seeing what happens is really a viable way to write a proper story. Maybe at some point a person could write a big mess, pull out the interesting bits, and fill in a proper story around them.
 

redzwritez

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I don't think I've ever written something that had an end. Considering that if I plan too far ahead, I don't end up getting where I'm going anyway, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do more than unceremoniously tie my stories off like a television series that wasn't sure if it would be renewed for another season. I recently was trying to write a scene that was going to be a set-up for a smooching scene later, but instead the woman decides to tell the guy that he fell in love with an assumed persona and so the smooching isn't going to happen.

I don't know if just starting and seeing what happens is really a viable way to write a proper story. Maybe at some point a person could write a big mess, pull out the interesting bits, and fill in a proper story around them.
I'm a similar way actually. I find I need a plan or I get to a point where I don't know where to go or how to end it. Sometimes it helps me to write a plan, use it as a lose guide and then revise and update it as things change but there's downsides to that too. Sometimes I'll wind up with too many plans to keep track of or the plan's too detailed.
 

Bramandin

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I'm a similar way actually. I find I need a plan or I get to a point where I don't know where to go or how to end it. Sometimes it helps me to write a plan, use it as a lose guide and then revise and update it as things change but there's downsides to that too. Sometimes I'll wind up with too many plans to keep track of or the plan's too detailed.

In my case, it's mostly because I don't plan out my characters either. They might not always cooperate with the situations I put them into. Like I wanted to write a story where Covid somehow made it to that world, but the only stepford smiler I have is a vampire that's okay with not breathing.
 

Toby Frost

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There's a lot that can be said about how to start a book, and a lot of ways to do it. I'm pretty sure there's an entire thread about it somewhere. Anyway, I think one of the easiest and best ways to do it is to start at the point where there is a break from the norm, ie when the thing that the story is about starts to happen. A woman is driving home when she sees a strange light in the sky; two scientists wonder why their colleague is behaving strangely; the hero decides to enlist in the Space Corps, etc. The characters might not know that the weird thing has happened, but it's at that point that the story really begins.

Of course there are other ways to do it, but I think that's the safest. Different writers might choose different significant events. One writer might start a story where the hero feels slightly unwell; another might start the same story a year later, when the hero is just about to go in for vital surgery for the same condition. But in both cases, something significant and new is about to happen. I wouldn't try to fill in the reader with lots of backstory: they can pick that up as they go, and it will make the story more mysterious and interesting if there are some unanswered questions (although you don't want it to be too vague).
 

Wayne Mack

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I think that this is something each person needs to discover on his or her own. Keep trying different approaches until one clicks.

For me, I find the key starting point is to identify a character that I relate to. After that, I find it easy to put the character into an environment and then digging the character deeper and deeper into a problem set. The conclusion is then resolving the the problems in a manner consistent with the character. I find that I tend to write in bursts as I first determine each problem extension to write and then as I determine how to have the character resolve the problems.

I've tried other approaches, but I have found that I abandon the story after a few brief notes or a single scene of 1,500 - 2,000 words. That is just me, though, so go ahead and find your own path.
 

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