Wasted Days & Wasted Nights by Mary Connealy, Guest Blogger

Mary Connealy is an author, journalist and a teacher. She releases three books with Barbour this year, is a columnist for the Lyons Mirror-Sun, and an occasional book reviewer for the Sioux City Journal. She lives on a farm in Nebraska with her husband, Ivan and their four daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy.
Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
I’m better now, but time was I wrote for a long time before I got to the beginning of a book.
I’m going to talk today about how to pick your beginning, but also how to not let it drive you nuts when you get told, often by a contest judge, that your book hasn’t started yet on page fifteen.
I’ve heard this called an ‘inciting incident’ and I like that. Incite is a word you hear attached to riot. Incited a riot.
That’s what you want for your beginning. Something big and fast paced and high stakes. But I used to write along telling my story and at some point it would all sort of click and, especially when it came to characters, I’d suddenly find a key to them and it would all be real. It wasn’t uncommon for that CLICK to come at around page ONE HUNDRED.
So, I’d go back and rewrite. Often throwing out huge chunks of the story to recreate the character as I now knew he really was.
It was painful to do, toss away all that work, cut thousands of words. I am a Nebraska ranch wife and as such I’m pretty conservative in many ways. No one needs to tell me to shut the light off when I leave a room, or turn the thermostat down and put on a sweater, or buy a car that gets high gas mileage. That’s something I’ve been doing from birth and not because I’m a ecology freak trying to save the planet. It’s because I’m cheap and because waste bothers me.
So wasting all those hours, throwing away all those words, it’s like just tossing out the mushy apples in the fridge when it would be so easy to just make apple sauce. It’s like throwing out three stale slices of bread instead of making bread pudding or stuffing for a roast chicken.
It is not natural.
And then I got a hold of a mindset that helped me handle it better.
I’ve read a lot about character charts or ‘interviewing your characters’ or creating background sheets for your characters. And I realized that’s what I was doing. All that writing that had to be tossed out was NOT wasteful, it was necessary. It was an exercise I needed to do to create my story.
So the next time someone in a contest critique tells you ‘your story doesn’t start until page nineteen” (that happened to me once—and she was right—but it took me a few years to figure that out) don’t get upset, don’t feel like your time was wasted. Just pick a new spot to start, farther on down the road of your story.
What you’ve written becomes back story and chances are it’s all important—it’s just not FIRST.
You need it. Now you’ll weave it into your story, bits at a time, in dialogue and sentence tags.
~~~
My book Wrangler in Petticoats released this month.
DRUMROLL PLEASE—
TODAY.

Wrangler in Petticoats

Ride into the Rockies where love peaks between a tough Texas tomboy and a passionate artist. On her way to Montana, Sally McClellan’s party is attacked and robbed. But then artist Logan McKenzie saves the badly wounded cowgirl who has been left for dead. Can this landscape painter tame the tomboy without breaking her spirit? Sally doesn’t know much about ribbons and lace, but Logan’s presence makes her want to connect with her feminine side. Will this fractured female discover a way to capture the artist’s love—or find herself captured and killed by outlaws?

In honor of that I am giving away one free copy to one commenter here on Novel Journey, so this is no time to lurk.
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Petticoats & Pistols