I'm pretty sure you've all heard me say before that I can't really write a beginning until I write The End. That's mostly because I change so much throughout the book that the beginning needs to be tweaked to reflect the different directions the plot took.
I had an aha! moment the other day as I stood in front of a class of 36 college students. Someone had asked about my process of creating a novel, and I was telling them how hard beginnings were for me. Most authors I know love beginnings. Fresh starts, new characters... Me? I fairly dread them. It's not that I don't have a million ideas. And hundreds of characters who want their day on the page. It's because I always try to start a book without really knowing the full story--just trying to get something on the page, to get it done. But that hasn't been working so well.
I always thought I was more of a "pantser" -- an author who doesn't outline, one who flies by the seat of her pants. I do have a notebook for every book I write, but no one but me can decipher it. There's no "outline" -- except in my head. Most of one at least. Every once in a while, a character will pop out of nowhere and surprise me. I love that--one of the best things about writing, in my opinion. It's just not as fun when I know the whole plot in advance.
I plan on outlining a bit more. I need to know my characters, their quirks, what they look like. The town--how it's set up, what it looks like. The main character's house. The cat. The murder victim--and why they were killed. And the murderer, too. Why did he/she kill? There needs to be reasons, explanations, resolutions. Maybe then beginnings won't be so painful. (But I do hope there will still be some surprises.)
So my aha! moment of realizing how much work I need to put into a book before I even start it will hopefully help me from now on. I'll let you know how this all plays out. I've finished one of my September proposals (you might remember my goal was to get three out by the end of the month), and I'm about to start something brand spanking new. Just need to get a new notebook first...