Where to Start?

Where to start a story may seem a stupid question to ask. Of course you need to start at the beginning when telling or writing a story. It’s important because this is when you hook your audience. The problem is, the beginning may not always be clear, or there could be multiple places where a story can start.

Writing isn’t like drawing or painting, where you can start at the top, middle or bottom of the canvas. On a canvas, you can see where you are going, and the space to be creatively filled is clearly defined. It doesn’t work like that with writing. With a story, there’s the start, middle and end, and you can begin at any of these points and write out of order. Sure, writers usually start writing at the top left hand side of a page, moving across to the right (when writing in English) then down to the next line and so on. But this top of the page could be in the middle of a story, or a new scene, or the start of a chapter. There are so many more choices when constructing a story, many which are hidden. The writer is working with the unknown, and may have an idea where to go, but there could be multiple ways to get there.

At some point, the only decision that can be made is to choose a point in the story and write. The structure will become clear the more that is written. Like all good travellers, the writer might get lost, have to back track and take another path. I’ve thrown away 30-40,000 words before in a story and re-written those words, and now I’m planning on doing a complete re-write of these 70,000 words. What a waste?! Not really. I needed to write in order to find the start and I was learning about my writing style that was best suited for this particular story (I have a different one for each story). It had to be done. This is going with the flow, my inner creative flow, and writing to see what takes shape. If the story ends up not going in a direction I feel is suitable for the story or characters, then I change. I may even abandon the story for a while to retrieve later, or use some parts in a different story.

That’s writing, a lot of hard work, persistence, trying new approaches, changing direction and not giving up. There can be times to persevere, but if it begins to feel like a block then I might jump ahead to another scene, or write another story, or take time to journal, or have a break. I never know what creative paths I’ll end up going down if I let go (just a little) and relax, trust myself that I’ll find a creative solution.

The more I write, the more I become aware of my journey, what is working, what isn’t and then I can adjust accordingly. Some loose suggestion of where to start will involve emotion, action, and a hook to draw in the reader. Once I’m writing, then I’ll begin to connect to the setting, characters, and emotion, then I will have a better idea of the direction the story is going in. At this point, I can reflect if this is the best place for the start, or if there’s somewhere else. The story can be re-structured when editing, but first there needs to be words on the page.

Finding the best start to a new story becomes a matter of jumping in, get writing, stop thinking of the outcome, and don’t question yourself. And that in itself is a very good place to begin a story.

Stitch in Time

In the winter months I relax by watching TV by either knitting or crocheting. Doing something with my hands helps me to settle. Once I’ve eased into a rhythm, the counting of stitches moves from having to be thought about to a feeling, which happens naturally, and I slip into a meditative state. While my hands are knotting yarn into a scarf or beanie or cowl, the opposite is occurring in my mind – the thoughts are being untangled, events of the day are being unknotted and decisions processed with potential options considered and perhaps a resolution reached.

If I knit long enough my thoughts quieten, and the meditation deepens which is nurturing for my soul even if it only happens for a moment. My inner rhythm comes out in the pace I stich, making a physical connection to myself and how I feel. I can see if I’m stressed, the stiches are formed tightly. And so I can adjust, watching the stitches loosen as I knit. If they don’t loosen, then I know I still need to relax. So I take a few deep breaths, and try to release the thoughts or feelings that might be troubling me. This isn’t always easy, but as the stiches form, I have a visual of how I’m feeling, which becomes the focus towards relaxation, instead of the thoughts or feelings.

It’s also always rewarding to create. It’s a big part of my life, not just with my writing but also my craft. I feel it’s a different sort of creativity to when I’m writing, while I’m making something practical like a scarf (I keep it simple!) I’m seeing my progress and when I finish I can feel I have achieved a project, which is rewarding in itself. But its also a journey, not just physically making something but also an inner journey one that’s unfolding in secret as the length of the scarf increases. The scarf almost becomes a sign of how much I’ve meditated, my thoughts hidden in the stitches, captured in time and held outside of me where they can no longer trouble me.

While on the exterior, maybe it looks like I might be avoiding certain jobs, or putting off problem solving or planning, while I take time out to knit and crochet. The reverse is actually occurring. I’m allowing myself time to meditate. I’m mentally dealing with the problems, events, or planning at my own pace. What might look like procrastination, I’m really doing as the old saying goes “A stich in time saves nine.”