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Author Topic: More about opening  (Read 3091 times)

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Offline Ed

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More about opening
« on: July 21, 2009, 10:21:00 AM »
I spotted this post elsewhere by John Skipp, New York Times Best Seller, zombie aficionado, and founding father of splatterpunk. I asked him if I could copy and post it here, and he gave me permission, as long as I posted it verbatim. While I was tapping him up for that I also tried to get him to judge this year's Cafedoom Comp, but sadly he doesn't have the time. Nice of him to consider it and give a reply, though.

Anyway, here's John's advice on providing a good opening:

Dear gang --

The story -- assuming there is a story, and not just a person sitting at a keyboard, hoping a story might possibly show up -- will ALWAYS tell you what it wants to do.

But I generally don't sit down to write something if I haven't already spent serious thinking time with it.

Which is to say: I have lots of ideas set on incubate. They float around until something tells me that it's time to pluck this one out, and give it sufficient attention to tell me what it wants.

So I hardly ever sit down with a blank page of thought, going "What should I write today?"

I go, "Today, it's time to tackle this one."

And on the rare occasion when something goes, "No, WRITE ME INSTEAD!", then all the fucking rules are off, and I'm just following the moment's inspiration.

But I tend to find that the moment's inspiration is a percolating upsurge of something I've been thinking about for quite some time beforehand. Even if I didn't know how to do it yet.

And then suddenly, I think I know how to do it.

And out it comes.

Which is to say: cultivate your inventory. Keep your front and back burners burning. Assume that all that useless research and experience you've been accumulating as part and parcel of your life might just come in handy now.

If not, go suck up more research and experience.

Until you have something to say. A story to tell. A fucking point to make.

That's when you start writing that.

Otherwise, put your effort into something else that you've hopefully put some fucking thought into.

Seriously. A lot of people approach this shit as if it were some kind of magick. And it is.

But becoming a magician is learning how to work the ingredients, and becoming a person who can do it in their sleep.

Which is what you want to be.

Finally: yes, you need to nail the reader right up front. From the opening words.

If you don't have me by the first page, I'm gone. I got other shit to do. And so do you.

But that first page had better have something to do with that last page. Otherwise, I the reader have been wanked. And you the writer have just wanked me. Without even trying.

Or, more specifically, by not having tried hard enough.

Which is to say, an absence of forethought.

Hope this was helpful.

Yer pal,

Useful info for the aspiring horror writer, I think.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2009, 10:21:29 AM by Ed »
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]


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Re: More about opening
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 12:58:45 PM »
Great post. I had a mentor tell me pretty much the exact same thing Skipp says-- Let it incubate until you have something worth a damn saying, tie the ending in with the beginning. I never got it till this past year. And since I've followed that advice I've had acceptances and even those that aren't, end up getting encouraging personal notes from editors. Very cool, Ed.


Offline Rev. Austin

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Re: More about opening
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2009, 01:06:57 PM »
That is absolutely spot-on.
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