Finding the Story's Beginning

Where does your story start?

Before I started writing THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the story's beginning. I wanted to get those first pages just right, so I focused on words that fit what I saw in my mind. It took me forever to write that scene, but once I did, the flood gates opened to the rest of the story.

About a year later, I enrolled in a writing workshop at a local college, and I learned a LOT from the students in that class. The one thing they requested over and over was to provide a better understanding of the Watchers and the kingdom of Moniah. My carefully constructed first pages dropped the reader smack in the middle of Adana preparing to leave Elwar and return home to Moniah. If you've read the book, the scene where she's in the rowboat aware of her father's eminent arrival was that first scene. It now appears on page 233! (Yes, you read that right.)

What made me change it?

People wanted to know more about the Watchers and the kingdom of Moniah. I needed to reveal their society and the culture and landscape. so I wrote Adana's mother's death scene in Moniah as a prologue.

People asked more questions, and the prologue became too long. I changed it to chapters.

Then an editor from TOR did a critique on the first ten pages at a writing conference and suggested I write a prologue to introduce us to the giraffe bond. I wrote the scene that now exists as the prologue. (He requested the full manuscript but left publishing a few months later.)

How did one book become two?

At another conference, an agent fell in love with the first ten pages and wanted to see the entire manuscript. Later she called me to discuss what we should do with the book. She felt like it was too long and needed to tell the story of what happened between the decree that sent Adana to Elwar and the time for her to return. I had wondered if I needed to write this, too.

We split the book in half and wrote what happened during Adana's first year in Elwar--I love those chapters, by the way--and I added chapters that lead up to the rowboat scene. Then I took the second half of the original book and wrote a whole LOT more. I loved what I'd written and figured if it didn't work in the manuscripts, then I could use the new sections as short stories or novellas released at a later point. (In the end, this agent didn't end up working with me to sell the books, fyi.)

If you're keeping track, I wrote THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH from the inside out. You'll find a lot written about writers starting their story too early before the true action and conflict occurs. I didn't start too early. I started too late and had to backtrack to fill in the gaps.

Am I the only one?

Some days, I do wonder if I'm the only author who's done this or if someone else has a similar experience. If you're out there, I would love to hear from you.

Image courtesy of


Valerie Norris said…
I usually start too soon, not too late. I remember an agent at a conference paging through the first ten pages of my novel and saying, “Nothing going on,nothing going on.” She got to page 7 and slammed her hand down. “THIS is where it gets interesting. THIS is your beginning.”
Valerie, I remember you telling me about that! I have a feeling I'm fairly unique in this way.
Unknown said…
To prologue or not to prologue appears in a lot of articles I've read. A lengthy prologue always turns me off. The first chapter's first couple paragraphs have to hook the reader and justify the prologue, so it's a balancing act and a tough decision.

Keep up your hard work, and best wishes for your success.

Steve, what I've discovered is some genres accept prologues more than others. They're quite common is speculative fiction, especially when there's a good bit of worldbuilding involved. I seesawed about mine even though an editor from Tor told me I needed it. My publisher felt it was worthwhile for the first book, too. Books 2 and 3 don't have prologues.

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