In this series, editor and author Christopher Klim takes you through a multi-level approach to revising your work. Excerpts taken from bestselling Write to Publish: Essentials for the Modern Fiction and Memoir Market.
All fine writing is the result of rewriting. I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it is certainly a fact. The first draft is the art of writing. The revision process exists to recognize mistakes and mop up the mess, and readers never witness the accident. Readers seek the ease of flawlessness.
LEVEL ONE: THE OPENING
The opening is the first scene in a story, albeit a very crucial scene. It introduces the main character, her hopes and desires, and the point of view. Those are story basics, and not until they are known does the story get rolling.
The tricky part about drafting an opening is that this is the time when a writer knows the least about the characters and plot. Most writers agree that it takes roughly 100 pages to understand the main characters. This often invalidates earlier characterizations, and as a result, character desire and behavior seem unfocused or incorrect. Some writers toss out the first 100 pages and start over. That is a drastic measure, although it is common to labor over the first fifty pages and definitely the first twenty-five.
When revising, the opening must be arresting before I proceed. Everything falls out of the first line. Some writers say that the first line gives away the ending. Indeed, the open-ing scene starts the journey, and if it must change, the entire story path might change along with it. Try to get the opening in order before addressing the remaining story. You may return to tweak the prose, but it will be structurally sound before you edit the rest.
Chapter II of Write to Publish covers the important elements of story openings. Below is a checklist for review. The first three items are vital to the success of launching a story.
Introduce the Main Character
Show Predominant Point of View
Reveal the Story Question
Preview the Setting
Set the Tone
Shorten the Time Line & Create Order
Christopher Klim is the author of several books including the novel, Idiot!, and the short collection, True Surrealism. He is currently working on a novel trilogy about the space program past, present, and future.
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