Monday, June 2, 2014

TOTW: Beginnings, Middles, & Ends

"Which part of a book is hardest to write: the beginning, middle, or end?"

I was on a panel at Wellesley Books a few months ago, and when the events coordinator asked this question, I thought the answers would be boringly uniform. Obviously, the middle is the hardest part to write!

But apparently that's just me. For some writers, it's the beginning -- especially in fantasy, where you need to establish your world while avoiding the dread inof-dump. For others, it's the ending, which has to satisfy the reader -- and which will establish their lasting impression of the book. Or, yes, the middle, where you have to connect that beginning and end while keeping all the strands of the characters, plot, and world-building straight. (Or twisting them exactly the way you want!)

How about you? Which is hardest for you to write? (And don't say, "All of them." It may be true, but it's still cheating!)

12 comments:

  1. I think it depends on the book! Usually it's the middle for me, too (where I am now in my WIP - feels like I'm lost in the murky middle!) But for another story I was working on it was the beginning. I had eight different starts to the book - believe it or not!

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  2. You're reminding me that I also once had a story that went through four beginnings. But I'm pretty sure the middle of that one was even harder than usual, too. ;)

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  3. I always start too early and it takes me a few chapters to get to the beginning. Then I have to cut those first few chapters away and the beginning is really about chapter three! Middles are okay, sometimes like quick sand, but endings can be hard too. I met an editor and agent recently who said most people's books started too far into the action and ended too quickly!
    But for me - I know the beginning at least and I know where i'ts going so yeah, I vote for the middle being hardest too!

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    1. Interesting - I feel like most readers complain that books start too far in advance of the action! And glad to have another vote for the middle.

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  4. Middles are hardest arggghhhhhhh: quicksand, exactly.

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    1. SEE??? I WUZ RIGHT! (I'm in the middle of a wip right now, as it happens... ugh.)

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  5. ALL OF IT IS HARD!

    Well, I am expert at beginnings. Middle and end...not so much.

    That's the hard part, when your story really has to feel like a story and not just a bunch of random scenes. I'm working on that now!

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  6. There's hard as in difficult to get it right, and then there's hard as in difficult to get through it. The beginning is harder to get right, the middle is harder to get through. And that thing with starting before the action, and going on after is a big, now shift in editorial taste--used to be they wanted you to start with a bang, now they're saying they want to get to know the characters first. For me, I think it depends a bit on what kind of story you're telling...but this is a change from the way it was when I was a newbie.

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  7. Hilari, I'm with you: "The beginning is harder to get right, the middle is harder to get through." I consistently rewrite beginnings more than any other part, but the real slog for me is the middle.

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  8. At the moment in my life it's most definitely "everything," but the first thing that popped into my head when I allowed myself to think of my entire, eh, "career" (HAH) writing was Endings. I have SO much trouble pulling everything together in a way that satisfies me (let alone anyone else). Most of my unfinished works were abandoned after too many failed attempts at endings! (And yes, I'd rewritten the rest of the works several times by then trying to make something that might lead to a better ending!)

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  9. Good question, and great discussion! Middles are hard, cause it's tricky to get the pacing right and I tend to go breakneck, then have to fill in. But, the portion I rewrite the most is the beginning. This is because the ending is the ending--I know what it's supposed to look like and once I've got it down, it's usually pretty set. But, the beginning needs to reflect what the ending will be (I think of them as bookends) and yet still has five billion places it could start and ways the character could be introduced. So, yeah, I usually have to try out at least five of those five billion before I get it right!

    --Suzanne
    www.suzannewarr.com

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  10. I'd say the beginning is the hardest. I rewrite my beginnings a lot to avoid that info dump and capture the reader's imagination. I often write the real beginning after I write The End.

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