Insecure Writers Want to Know: If you could use a wish to help write one chapter in your book, which would it be?

            Now there’s a complicated question! I guess if I could only have one place in my college memoir where something magical could help me write it, it would be the first chapter. Since wishes are magical to me, that would mean someone who knows more than I or possibly could see into the future would help me be sure I was starting the story in the correct place. Beginnings are so important in story.

            Beginnings to novels or memoirs are different from what they were in past eras. No longer can writers indulgingly describe settings or characters. Today, the story must jump right into the action or problems of a story. Every scene must drive the story plot forward, even if only a tiny bit. There is too much other stuff competing for a reader’s time. A writer needs to show the possibilities of problems to come on that first page, almost, in order to keep a reader reading the novel.
            Not only do writers need to hook readers with juicy plots, but also wow them with real characters to care about. You could open with an exciting plot; aliens invading earth or two boys barreling down a raging river. But if you don’t connect the plot to a sentient being, no one will care about it. Our stories need to be about someone in particular; some vulnerable, flawed person the readers can connect to. And the story should begin in scene. We need to be someplace, even if we are just thinking. We need to ground the reader in time and place.
            Is my college memoir starting in the right place? Gosh, I hope so. This is where that magical wish could show me for sure.
            I begin my story with a scene. And through that scene, I hope to connect readers to a person, a particular person with hopes and dreams and problems.
The memoir opens with my special-needs daughter signing up for high school classes. She wants to go to college, just like I did all those years before. And just like what happened to me, someone important tells her she shouldn’t go to college. Within this guidance counselor scene, Victoria’s backstory begins to unfold, showing [I hope] why this particular situation is pivotal. With this initial scene, I want to demonstrate Victoria’s struggles as a mother, what she feels about a college education and the reasons for her feelings. This initial counselor meeting forces Victoria to revisit her own dreams of a college education in order to help her children. This initial scene also allows for Victoria to revisit her feelings about being educated toward the end of the memoir once she finishes her own college journey.
That’s a lot for one opening scene to carry. How important do you feel beginnings are to novels or memoirs? I would truly appreciate your insight into the beginning of my college memoir.
I can’t wait to see where you would use your special wish in story writing. Thanks for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.
This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

22 thoughts on “Insecure Writers Want to Know: If you could use a wish to help write one chapter in your book, which would it be?”

  1. The beginning and opening scene is VERY important in a memoir or a novel. It’s what will keep readers hooked and interested in the book. I think you’re first chapter is great, since it incorporates all of those important elements you mention and sets the stage for the entire memoir. And, you even managed to keep it short to retain the attention. Keep on going, Victoria!

    If I had to use the wish for a chapter or scene, I’d pick the first one as well for exactly the reasons I mention above. I guess most authors would pick the first chapter.

  2. Opening scenes are certainly important. But I'm not sure you'll know exactly where to start until you've reached the end. Just tell your story to yourself through the first draft, then you can figure out where to start for the reader. Best to you on this journey.

  3. Yes we do, S.E. White. Like I said above, starting your story in the correct place is pivotal to its success. Thank you for your good wishes with my college memoir. They are truly needed and appreciated. Thanks for your note at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your day!

  4. This is solid advice, Lee! How can we know exactly where to begin when we don't know the outcome yet? Thanks so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. And thanks for the good wishes. I need them. Enjoy your day!

  5. Yes, beginnings are important. It might help to remember that where you start writing doesn't have to be the start of the book – a lot of people eiter end up deleting the bit they write to get them started, or keep it, but move it back.

  6. This is so true, Patsy. The hardest part in any writing project for me is just to get started. You fine tune the beginning in revision, and if I learned anything about myself all these years writing, it's that I'm a major revision-ist.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

  7. Oh my gosh, Dawn, I think a lot of writers battle resistance from within. "This isn't any good. I'm wasting my time." I fight it constantly, myself. It's a major insecurity in many writers.

    Thanks for your note at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

  8. Openings are crucial. That said, I think writers can get stymied by this, afraid to write a word until they have the "perfect beginning." Unfortunately, you often don't find out where you should have started a book until you've completed the first draft.

    I've added an "insert awesome opening line here" notation to break through that and start putting words on the page. It worked. 🙂

  9. That is so true, J.H. Searching for perfection can kill any forward movement in writing anything.

    You have a great idea here! "Insert awesome opening…" is the best way NOT to get stuck writing forward. Thanks so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your day!

  10. I agree. Stories need to grab my attention from the beginning. They make you want to finish. Cliff hangers at the end of the chapters are great too! Not so great when you need to sleep because you want to continue reading. Great post!

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