“Here are two rules of writing that I wish someone had told me when I started thirty or so years ago. One is don’t make a career out of writing first chapters as I almost did. The second is that you don’t have to be able to outline a plot if you have a reasonably long life expectancy.” Tony Hillerman
When I first started to write fiction and decided to take correspondence courses to learn more about technique, I learnt that the first sentence, the first paragraph and the first chapter are extremely important. I still believe that they are even though lately my experience with some of the books that I have started reading says otherwise. True, a good first chapter hooks me to the story as a reader, but I haven’t been able to finish most of the books I started to read and had to stop somewhere before the middle.
Lately, reading through my notes I realized that I have fallen in the same trap too. I realized that for the past months, maybe years, I have spent my time writing and rewriting and polishing a first chapter.
Rereading it made me feel happy since I think it’s a good chapter. But it stops there. I have a good first chapter and a good last chapter but the middle of my story sucks. Some parts are irrelevant to the story.
To fix the problem I can either rewrite the entire story or just leave it as it is and start a new one. This time I can do it by the book, by planning and plotting ahead. A lot of writers, and lots of good writers, outline in great detail. But doesn’t the process of letting the story grow seem more fun? It’s like letting your characters grow and develop and eventually take over the story. It’s like you feel you really know them. They do things and say things that I don’t think I as a writer can ever come up with should I outline my story.
As a writer I am in for spontaneity and surprises. Somehow that makes my story more authentic, more genuine and more believable, because it comes from the heart.
What kind of writer are you? Do you plot? Or do you just start with and idea and take it from there?