Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing tools #4

Today, I want to talk about the intentional false start.

I guess I'll start by giving my definition of a false start.
-A false start is when the scene begins before it should, rambling until it reaches the inciting incident. It also happens when extra information is plugged in after the inciting incident — info-dumped onto the reader — to fill the setting or world, yet serve no purpose for the scene, thus could be cut, and the scene could begin at a starting point after what the writer had initially thought the inciting incident should be.

That's a lot to swallow I guess, but it's important to understand when you have a false start. A lot of times, as a writer, you don't realize that you've had a false start because you began where your intended to or where your outline said you should, but you weren't in the characters head yet.

This is why I suggest trying the intentional false start.

As its name suggest, the intentional false start is writing from a point that you know you're going to cut. So, why is it a good thing?

That's simple. If you start from a point that you know you're going to cut, you never have an opening to your scene that is not where you want it to begin.


Let's see if I can explain it better. When you finish a scene that had a false start, you just move onto the next scene and let it set until you go through your next draft or revisions. Waiting to this point, most writers will simply edit and revise it to try and make it fit rather than cutting the fat. But if you had an intentional false start, you know you have to cut part of the beginning off, so before going on, you glance over the opening and start deleting. Sometimes, you will go past the part you had originally thought you would start at and eliminate a false start before it has a chance to grow.

Why not just look for false starts after every scene?

That's a possibility, but often times if you do that, you won't see it. A writer will see what they had written as it should be in their mind, rather than knowing that something has to be cut. On top of that, this gives you a chance to get into character voice, build some interactions that develop your characters and make your scene feel alive as it is not the start of the world, but that the world turns outside of each scene.

But I'm a Gardener (discovery writer), and I don't have any plans for my scenes.

This is more the reason to do it. As a Gardener myself, I found this tool more than useful as my writing improved.

How should a Gardener go about doing an intentional false start if they don't know where the scene will begin?

Simple. Write the first line of your scene. Then, go back to the beginning of the line and hit enter a few times. From there, take a step back from what you had just written and turn the clock back 'five minutes' ... well, maybe not five minutes, but a bit of time at least. Then write from there and connect it to your starting line. Finish the scene and scan through the beginning for what you need to cut and where you want to start.

That sound nice, but I'm an Architect (outliner), and my outline has a very specific point to start a story. I shouldn't have any false starts.

Well, you will. We all do. On top of preventing regular false starts, it also cuts bland openings. Having the intentional false start will allow an Architect to get into a character's head and spin out character voice by the point they reach the opening specified by their outline. This will make their scenes richer as well as give them a chance to check up on their outline and make sure it was the best place to start.

For the next scene you write, try it out. Take a few steps back from where you had intended to start your story and intentionally false start. When you finish the scene, cut the intentional false start as well as any other fat at the beginning. I believe your scene and writing will improve this way.

Thank you for reading,

Next: Architects versus Gardeners and how to find a balance between them

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