General

Starting in the Middle

Beginnings are under a lot of pressure. They’re incredibly important because that’s where readers start. In general, you have about eight seconds to capture a reader’s attention. That means you have maybe a page to not only catch your reader’s attention, but to keep them invested in your story. For that to happen, your beginning needs to do a lot in those first couple of pages.

Which is why when you first start writing, it might help to take that pressure off the story and just start in the middle. Drop your characters right into the first big crisis and take it from there.

The point of doing this is that you have to start somewhere, but rather than bogging yourself down with setting up the scenes and character descriptions, you’re getting right into the meat of the story. It takes pressure off by ignoring all the things a beginning has to do and focusing instead on the story.

The other benefit of doing this is that when you’ve made it to ‘the end’ you can come back to the beginning with a clearer purpose. You’ll already know what the end is, which makes it easier to decide which details are the most important for the beginning pages.

Jumping into the middle of the story usually works best for earlier drafts and rewrites. It might also help if as your drafts progress you find your beginnings are still lacking—it can help you cut through and realize which parts of exposition can be completely skipped, or help highlight when you’ve started a story too early.  Even if you’re in the later stages of editing, give it a try! It might just be the kick your story needs.

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