1. Jrp331

    Jrp331 New Member

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    Advice for Beginner Writer

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jrp331, Mar 17, 2020.

    Hi everyone! I have been doing a lot of writing since I as in high school and now that I am a stay at home mom, I have decided to try to turn my free writings into a book. I would love any advice you guys could offer me as well as your opinion on how I’ve decided to start my novel.

    The book I am currently working on is a murder mystery. I have been struggling with having a good gripping opening so I decided to start off with a small paragraph before chapter one that has the victim’s wife finding the body and the police being called. Then chapter one will introduce my detective and start the investigation. What do you guys think of starting my book this way?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
  2. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    Go for it.

    Your first draft will probably go through multiple revisions and edits and in the process you will get a sense of what you think works.

    However......remember to also ask other beta readers (unbiased ones) what they think. Sometimes we fall in love with what we've written and we don't want to change, even though it could make the writing better.

    That said, I write for a hobby, I'm not a published writer......

    Once you've met the requirements in here, a mod will probably post a link, you'll be able to submit some sample chapters to the workshops for criticism/feedback.

    On other topics, welcome to the forums!
     
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  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    No one can really tell you too much about how you've decided to start your novel without seeing it. And even then a beginning often means very little until there is an ending in place. You'll go through several drafts along the way and change your mind about a lot of things. I'm not saying this is one of them. Just be open to letting your story and ideas evolve as you go.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of the small paragraph before the chapter. It just seems like that would seem weird and out of place. But this is based, obviously, just on the idea of doing this. It might be better to keep playing with chapter one. I will admit I'm a big fan of conventional forms until there are good reasons to break them. And I don't really see how a small paragraph before chapter one is really going to beginning more so than if it was included in the chapter.
     
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  4. Jrp331

    Jrp331 New Member

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    Thank you for the feedback. I wasn’t crazy about having that short paragraph either but I wasn’t sure how to start the first chapter with it. I have been doing a lot of research on starting a novel and a lot of my research says to introduce the crime in chapter one. I would prefer to set up the murder in the first chapter or two and then have the murder happen so I don’t have to go back and do too much back flashing to my suspects motives.
     
  5. Jrp331

    Jrp331 New Member

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    Thank you for the feedback. I wasn’t crazy about having that short paragraph either but I wasn’t sure how to start the first chapter with it. I have been doing a lot of research on starting a novel and a lot of my research says to introduce the crime in chapter one. I would prefer to set up the murder in the first chapter or two and then have the murder happen so I don’t have to go back and do too much back flashing to my suspects motives.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think the advice to introduce the crime in the first chapter really comes down to making sure you're starting your novel with the actual story. Readers don't need to be eased into the story. They need to be pulled in and pulled in quick. That's the way it is with any story. With a mystery, I think this is even more important. Ask yourself: Does this story really start before the murder, before there is a mystery? Sure, you want characters that seem real and are developed and a story that has enough meat on the bones that readers care about what's going on, but that has nothing to do with starting the story in the right place. And if a reader is looking for a mystery, I'm not sure how long you'll be able to hold their attention and keep them going without the actual crime taking place.

    I recently finished a draft of a murder mystery. I've rewritten the beginning and the whole first chapter many times. So, that's something to keep in mind too. Beginnings often change. That said, the murder doesn't take place until the second chapter in my novel. My story and approach is a little different than a typical murder mystery. The mystery is not the main focus of the story. But my first chapter starts with story and quickly develops the characters and situation.

    I am still toying with bringing the murder into the first chapter. I do think it might be better and/or necessary. If we are to be mystery writers, shouldn't we start our stories with the actual murder and/or mystery? I think so. But like I said, I'm still playing with this in my own novel. Just know you can come back and rework it as many times as it takes to get it right.

    But, really, people don't like to be set up for stories. You've got to trust that readers want the story and are ready for it. Sure, you might have needed some of that set up in your head to get to the story, but readers aren't going to need that same setup if you tell your story right. Remember your focus. The focus is the mystery.

    A lot of times writers, especially new writers, feel a need to write their way into a story. That can be a hard habit for some to break. But some good writing advice is that you always want to start as close to the end of your story as possible. There are a lot of things going on in a mystery. You don't want to clutter your story with unrelated actions and whatnots. And your story doesn't need an introduction.

    Okay... Now to rewrite the beginning of my novel again...
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    I'm not highly knowledgeable about genres like some people in here are, but my suspicion is that when they say have the murder happen in chapter one, It's probably for a detective-type story, the investigation of the murder. It sounds like that's not the kind of story you're doing?

    EDIT—Oh, well Deadrats might have just nailed it Dead to Rats as it were (dead to rights—get it?) :cool:

    2nd EDIT—And I see you're indeed writing a murder mystery. I think I need more coffee.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Start where you feel most comfortable and worry about the opening at a later date. You don't have to write your book in order.
     
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  9. Vaughan Quincey

    Vaughan Quincey Member

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    Whatever you do, keep a separate notebook for notes, remarks and observations, and try to keep it tidy.
    Don't worry too much about the beginning, just keep going. There is time for revision later.
    This site is full of information for all writers, including beginners. You might like to check this out, on the process of writing a novel
    https://www.writingforums.org/resources/how-steinbeck-used-his-diary.398/

    Best luck to you!
     
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  10. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Senior Member

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    The best advice I give everyone is just write it. The self editors, the over thinkers, the constant world builders are all important people and aspects to consider, but it won't do anyone much good if all we do is talk about our work and never write it. It's so simple it's stupid, but the amount of times I've found myself annoyed it isn't done yet are my own fault because I haven't written.

    Good luck to you and welcome.
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll I said I write, didn't say good. :P Supporter Contributor

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    I remember reading The Surgeon by Tess Gerritson,
    and she would open some chapters in the POV of
    the killer with italics and no dialog, before getting
    into the investigators POV for the majority of the
    book.

    You could do little vignettes like that with the victims
    wife, and/or other characters depending on who the
    POV characters are. Just an idea. :)

    Good luck with your story.
     
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  12. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    This may sound odd, but I don't think that the murder is that significant in a murder mystery. I have been working on one myself (and loving it), and the way I see it, the great thing about a murder mystery is the mystery - and the wonderful opportunity for fleshing out the characters (including the character of the victim of course, even though he/she can't contribute too much after the event)
     
  13. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Some of this has been covered, but here's my list of the most frequent advice given to beginning writers (that isn't total BS):

    Just write
    - Don't worry if it isn't just right. Don't worry whether or not you even like it. The most repeatedly replaced section of the majority of books is the opener. This is coming from professionals, not from me. Get into the story, get into the grove and write every day. If you don't have something good to add that day, write anyway, even if it's on another piece entirely. Practice, practice, practice.

    Don't worry about perfecting your first draft - Unless you're Kurt Vonnegut, who famously spent weeks on a single paragraph sometimes, you will, like everyone else, need substantial rewrites. Stephen King compares it to painting. You don't start in a corner and perfect a section at a time. You work in layers. Maybe fix a paragraph if you think it's terrible or headed in the wrong direction, but try to keep moving. Add pages every day.

    Set daily goals - Some writers set a timer, but most use word counts. The pros write anywhere from 200 to 2,000 words a day every day, most in the 500-1,000 range. Find what works for you though.

    Read a lot; write a lot - The best research and prep work you can do is to read, especially but not limited to your own genre and related books. See how the pros have done what you're trying to do. See what you liked, and see what you think didn't work at all. There's no better teacher. If you're not a big reader - I'm far too easily distracted myself - try audiobooks. I love them. I chew through a fifty to a hundred a year.

    There's more... so much more, but those are four of the big ones that helped me beyond what I could have imagined when I first read them. above all, just dive in. Whether you're an architect writer who needs your story outlined in detail before you type word one or a discovery writer who learns the story as it unfolds, the best way to start is to start and never stop. In the case of an outline, use the same goal oriented daily schedule (probably at a lower word count) that I mentioned for the actual novel. Work on it every day until you're ready, but don't stretch it out. Outlining can become a form of procrastination. Believe me, I'm know.

    Good luck!
     
  14. Than_urb

    Than_urb Member

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    Yeah, I wanted to put down some advices too but Rzero said it well

    But I will add three points which were useful for me:

    1. Watch literature TV shows, writer interviews and Ted talks when you are not in a writing/reading mood.

    2. Anne Lamott said on her Ted Talk: The ony common point between all great writers is ... horrible first drafts.
    Therefore, just write your stuff and then turn it into a golden piece or use it for the
    chimney (just kidding).

    3. Don't forget the first reason that makes us writers (because we love that).


    Good luck !
     
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  15. Que

    Que Member

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    Yeah, good luck! No, I take it back. Luck is not what you need to write a novel. You need persistence and passion.

    "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." [George Orwell]

    And you might ask yourself if you want to outline your story first or let your characters tell you who they are and where they want the story to go. Yeah, that sounds odd because you are the author, not them, but sometimes your best writing comes by following your characters as you write rather than putting together detailed descriptions of who they are before you write.

    Or outline and improvise!

    Que
     
  16. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Member

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    Oh boy, welcome to the community and congrats on starting your journey! I started writing more seriously in high school too. I'm 27 now, and never missed a beat coming up with as many stories as I could. Like others have said, be ready for a ton of revision. If this is your first big project, it's just inevitable. But if you stick through it with consistency, you've overcome the first big obstacle all writers face!

    As for your opening, it sounds promising. Just another alternative for you to toss around in the old think-tank: have the book start with the actual murder. Show it from the perspective of the one being killed, or the killer. Readers won't expect the near-immediate death of a main character and it sets up some powerful emotion attached to the crime. That being said, this adds a much darker tone to your book. It all depends on what you want to go for.

    Which leads me into my next point. Write whatever opening you feel the strongest emotion towards. Strong emotion, when channeled through the fingers, usually adds up to powerful writing on paper (or a screen). I wish you the best of luck with this story, and don't hesitate to reach out if you want a little extra support!
     
  17. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    For beginners? Just write. In fact, write how you think it should be written. Don't worry about whether it's right. This does two things: 1) it shows you that you have the ability to put the time and attention into completing a story. 2) It establishes a baseline that we can then work off of. I like to say it's easier to work off of something, even if it's not perfect, than it is to work off of nothing.

    A lot of people, myself included, have trouble coming up with that "perfect opening" before they go on to the rest and it's kind of pointless. For starters, (and trust me on this) you're literally fretting over something you're going to just have rewrite anyway. Beginnings are probably the one part I rewrite the most because the vision and scope of the story tends to change as I get to know the characters, establish the plot, the tone, and settle on the themes that the story could potentially address.
     
  18. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds to me like you watch a lot of TV.

    That's not a criticism, I do as well. But what you're describing sounds quite similar to the way many TV shows will set things up with a brief scene before the title and opening credits hit. And they do it for a reason, it's a good way to hook people in right on the hour when the show starts, so I see no reason why it wouldn't work in a book, but it's going to have a TV feel to it. All depends on what you're going for.
     

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