Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where does your story start?

Like many of us I’m fortunate to have a seasoned writer who mentors me and will look at my work occasionally. I recently asked her to look at what I was about to submit and she did.

As I waited, I wondered if she’d get it. Would she think it was better than the last piece of garbage I had her read? Or would she think it was drivel and suggest I use it as a starter for our summer campfires? Nope. She suggested something far worse…

Overall, she thought it was better. She also gave me a lot of positive feedback that I could work with, but the biggest, most frightening thing she suggested--that I cut twenty-nine pages from the beginning. Twenty-nine pages! I can’t even tell you how long it took me to pour out those twenty-nine pages. She was being absurd. Ridiculous. There was no way I could cut twenty-nine pages and not lose the whole setup for the story. I didn’t even know if it was possible to weave it all together in a way that didn’t confuse the reader without those early pages.

She thought it would be better and more immediate if we were dropped into the action faster. I thought I was in the action already. She thought it would be better if the two main characters met earlier in the story. Chapter three is early. Right? I couldn’t see any way for them to meet sooner. Nope. Not possible.

So, I thrashed about for a couple days and prayed about it. I really took the time to brainstorm alternate beginnings and ways I could make the relationship between the hero and heroine appear earlier in the story without it seeming forced.

After a couple days, I did it. I hit the delete button. Well, not before I copied and pasted the twenty-nine pages into a new document. You know…just in case she was wrong.You know what happened? I had a story that started on page one. Not page thirty. I had two people that had chemistry from the first chapter. Not chapter three. I had improved my story. No matter how painful it was to hit that delete button.

It was tough, but I did it. And the story is better for it. What about you? Does your story start at a place that captures the reader from page one? Have you ever had to delete large sections of your work and why? Did it make the story better?

Sabrina Fox~


  1. I'm wrestling with this very thing right now as I get my manuscript ready for crit at conference. It's painful but worth it!

  2. The thing is . . . the writer needs to know all that set up. But the reader really doesn't.

    And it is so hard to see on our own work. So thank God for patient critiquers.

  3. Ack! Something ate my comment from yesterday. The gist was: I have definitely deleted. And re-deleted and re-deleted and. . . .