"Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop." ~ Lewis Carroll
If only the caterpillar knew how hard that really is for writers. Folks who know me through Facebook or twitter know that I'm making some really great progress on my writing. For the first time in a couple years. But despite the fact that I'm moving my story forward, this first draft is still filling me with dread. Yes, I'm aware that I'm overthinking some of this too much, but there's a real problem with this story.
I don't know where to begin. Along with the fact that there are actually several stories in this book that are "trying" to be told, I don't know where this story starts. Since it's science fiction, it requires a touch of world-building, but if it doesn't directly effect the plot, I don't want to waste the reader's time. It may deepen the world, but I've found that it's the little things that the characters can interact with that enhance the world more than the intergalactic politics that play no part in the structure.
So where do I begin? Ten pages before the inciting incident? Twenty? Fifty? How much back-story do I fill in later? How much is important? Which of the stories needs to be told, and which of them can just be set aside or completely ignored?
Really, what is this story about? I've never had this problem before. Usually, I have a full arc that takes up two thirds of a book and I need to throw in a flavor arc that ads to the universe and character development to turn it into a full novel. This time, I'm dealing with disjointed pieces of stories that are screaming at me and vying for attention. All of them excite me, and all of them would fit in this book.
But if I write all of them in, the book will be terrible. The pieces don't fit together. Not all of them, anyway. And regardless of what anyone says about writing to the market, I AM constrained by word-count, since this is Young Adult. I won't waste anyone's time trying to pitch a 150k YA novel. In fact, I won't pitch a YA book longer than 80k until I have a reputation that gives me some clout.
So where do I begin? At the beginning. How do I find out where the beginning is? Maybe I have to write the whole book.
This is one of those times where I wish I had a mentor to help talk me through this stuff. Someone with WAY more experience who could also calm me down in these freak-out moments. My partners are all awesome, and so are the members of my critique group. The fact that they enjoy some of the stuff that I've written means a lot, but the experience of someone with a longer track-record would be reassuring at times.
I can see that I'm rambling, now, so I'm going to leave it here. Keep in mind, all of you venturing into a new book, that where a novel begins is actually important. Too early, and you'll bore the reader with unnecessary information. Too late, and they'll be confused. The fact that I know this is part of what keeps me from getting super excited about the project overall, even though I rejoice every day that I hit my writing goal (in 30 minutes, no less!).