Monday, July 24, 2017

On beginnings

      For many years I wrote articles and short stories for magazines (more than 300 pieces for magazines including Reader’s Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, and Heartland USA), usually on pure speculation, and I learned early on that it’s critical to begin strong, first to interest an editor to buy the piece and then to capture the reader, so I focused on beginnings that would plant a hook in the first paragraph if not the first sentence in some vivid and unusual way.
     I still think the start of a fiction or non-fiction piece is critical, so I spend what some might consider an inordinate amount of time getting it just right, often doing many revisions.  By the time I have what I consider an effective beginning (which can be anything up to a full first chapter of a novel), I’ve invariably also created a reservoir of confidence and momentum, drawing me into the story myself and carrying me along with its flow.  I think subconsciously the process begins to organize and clarify the work for me, and the remainder of the work must then support and live up to that beginning, right to the last sentence.


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