How is everyone getting on these days? Whatever you’re doing, or however you’re managing to get yourself through the day, I hope it’s helping. My new mantra is that it’s ok to be just stay on the couch and watch Netflix, that it’s ok to feel hopeful one day and then have the world come crashing down around you the next. It’s not like we’ve ever been here before, so it’s important to be gentle with ourselves and forgiving of whatever we’re doing to stay safe and sane.
Last time, I wrote that I was unmotivated and struggling to regain my creativity. Today, I’m happy to report that hurdle has been jumped and I’m writing again. Sometimes all it takes is a spark of encouragement.
As some of you know, over the past few months I’ve been flogging my manuscript in hopes of publication. It’s a long haul task and not for the faint of heart. Writing a book is hard. Getting published is even harder. Thick skin is a prerequisite. But one of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s all about the beginning of the story.
To snare a publisher or agent, it’s critical to follow their rules. In addition to the query letter (as important as the actual manuscript), publishers and agents want to see the first few pages. This could be anywhere from five to fifty pages. The decision to proceed or not is made entirely on these two documents - the query letter and the beginning of the story. If they’re intrigued enough, they may ask to see the full manuscript. But if the beginning doesn’t hook them, they never even see how great the rest of the story is.
So it got me wondering what’s more important to readers? The beginning or the ending?
As a reader, I need to have a good beginning. I’ll give it a good long while before deciding to continue reading, but I know some reader’s minds are made up in the first few pages. For me, it’s a bit like a movie – if it doesn’t interest me right off the bat, I’m changing channels.
I need to be drawn into the world of the characters, to relate on some level to their struggles, and to have my curiosity piqued about where the story might take me. I also need to know that the writer is going to take me on their journey in unexpected and interesting ways. It’s a long way to the ending of the story with much middle ground to get there. A good beginning makes me want to read more.
But, the ending of a story is most important to the dramatic narrative. The conflict must be resolved in ways that bring satisfaction in realizing the protagonist’s eventual revelations. For me, many a good book was ruined by an ending that was contrived or where the loose ends were tied up a little too neatly. If it’s too predictable, I’m done. The ending must be right for the characters’ emotional makeup and must give meaning to their goals and motivations. If not, I feel unsatisfied and disappointed.
When I wrote my story, I had a clear picture of both the beginning and the end. I knew where the characters wanted to go, just not how they were going to get there. I figured that out as I went along. That was the fun of it. I believe the middle of my story keeps the reader intrigued and will have them thinking about how it ends.
In the meantime, I’m reworking my beginning. Since that’s the crucial factor in garnering publishers’ attention, then it’s my job as a writer to make it the best it can be.
So as readers, what’s most important to you, the beginning or the ending of a story? Do you give up on a book if it hasn’t grabbed you early on? Or are you one of those persistent types who continue reading no matter what? Would love to hear your opinions so drop a comment.
Though books may not be the cure for what the world is going through, they can provide a source of calmness, helping us unwind, escape, grow, connect and reflect. But if all you can do is bake, that’s ok too. Take care & stay safe my friends.
Until next time, happy reading!