That’s a unique problem! I’m usually great at the beginning and then fizzle out a few days later. For me, the beginning is the most exciting part!
One author once said that the first pages are where the author lies the most.
I think there are multiple meanings to this, but here’s my take on it: you don’t know your characters that well when you get started. Focusing on their little details before they’ve even had a chance to talk usually forces you to re-write that section because they’re just not the same person as they were when you started writing. The more you write, the more you flesh out your characters.
Here’s a tip: don’t worry too much about what they look like and whatnot.
Honestly, if you have to tell your readers “Tim’s my smartest friend,” then you’re not doing your job. Show Tim beating someone at chess. Show Tim getting told to take his vocabulary down a notch because people don’t understand him. Show Tim solving complicated equations.
“Show; don’t tell” is one of the oldest writing adages there is. And there’s a lot of truth in it.
Take a look at your favorite books. How much of the first chapter is spent describing the other characters?
Probably not a lot. The best things we learn about characters come from when they’re in their element, not just being described as such.
One of the many reasons people bash Twilight, for example, is because readers are told over and over that Bella is smart, that she likes to read, that she does this, that she does that.
You never see her read a book. She never uses a higher-end vocabulary. We don’t see her report cards. She never overhears someone talking about how she did better than everyone else on that latest chemistry test. Occasionally, she will trip and fall. And she’ll think about how clumsy she is. Golly gee whiz.
It’s all talk. Every character trait you are given about Bella is only stated but never shown, other than her clumsiness–which, by the way, doesn’t actually hinder her (or the people around her) in any real, meaningful way.
And describing what a character looks like kind of takes the fun out of the reader’s imagination. You can give some details here and there, but you don’t need to tell us “Josh is really tall” when you can later say something like “Josh had to duck down to avoid hitting his head on the doorway.”
You don’t have to tell us that Josh is tall and lean but muscular. If he plays basketball and you don’t specify otherwise, then those things will be inferred.
Give the reader some room to think and imagine.
And pay attention to your own thoughts: how much time do you actually spend thinking “Hannah is my closest friend. She has brown hair and is almost a head shorter than I am”?
Try something like this instead:
“Hannah came up to me and gave me a big hug this morning, just like always. She says she loves my hugs because they makes her feel like she’s looking up at a giant. I could smell the fresh scent of some fruity shampoo in her thick, chestnut hair–even though she’s almost a head shorter than I am.”
Obviously that’s still a lot of detail for so few sentences, but you get the point.
Reading is supposed to be a bit of an escape from the mundane. So don’t describe your characters in a way that’s mundane.
I don’t want to read a whole chapter of someone telling me what their friends and family are like.
Just start the action and let us see how they react to people and situations.
I would try plotting out your major action points. Look at your first major action and ask yourself how these characters would get there. What would they do when they arrive on the scene?
Figure out what’s a comfortable place for you to begin–even if it involves terrible writing–and just go from there. You can always re-write the beginning.
I have to move in a linear way, too–I can’t write scenes out of order. It drives me nuts, and things often change between them and they would have to get re-written.
But having to rewrite the beginning isn’t nearly as bad. Just crap out a few hundred words or however much it takes to get to the first important scene.
Then? Cut the crap out–as much of it as you can. Seriously.
I hope this helps!
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