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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Writing Advice: Start close to the end to ramp up drama

This is part of a series on writing advice. Click on the tag to see more!

There's an impulse when writing to put in every single thing you know about the story. This is great, because it means you know a lot about the world you're writing in, but it's also a great way to write a bogged-down and over-stuffed story. Good news, though! The early drafts are there to catch all of that, and the later drafts are in your control.

Drama comes from stuff piling up and leaning on the reader. How will everything pan out? How can all of this possibly wrap up? Will they even survive??

If you start as close to the end as you can while still getting all the info in, enough worldbuilding to make it make sense, enough trouble to make things interesting, enough threat to make it exciting, you can easily cut out all the mess beforehand that slows down a story. Just where to put that start-at-the-end depends on the story you're telling and the level of skill you have, but remember this: until you turn it in to someone, you can still change it.

So, instead of starting when someone is born, try starting it after they've grown up and messed everything up, and just after they've found the body and are holding the gun in their hands. Then, as they get themselves out of this mess, you can weave in the past experiences that inform how they're interpreting what's happening now.

And there's wiggle room. If you start there, and then find that there's not enough room to tell the story you're telling, you can back up. If you find that there's too much space before the next crisis, you can move the start even closer to the end.

Try this: Start the first draft wherever the inspiration tells you to write it. Then, when the first draft it done, see how much you can cut out of the beginning. See how much you can move the beginning closer to the end. Whatever you cut, save it; if the change doesn't work, but it back in and look at it again. The trick is to look at it less as a masterpiece that isn't working, and more as a series of parts that need to be rearranged to work right. It's all craft there. It's mechanics.

And then once you've moved the beginnings and ends around, do one more pass to pretty it up.

How do you choose where the beginnings and ends are? Or do you choose at all?


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