I don't post a lot of writing up here. It's not that I'm afraid of what the masses will think. (I doubt any of you could be harder on my writing than I am.) It's just that I usually keep my WIP's close to the chest. But I have a manuscript in the works now that required a whole new beginning. Why? Because I made the classic mistake of starting too late, which meant filling in with a load of snooze-worthy backstory.
I did it because I wanted to cut my word count and get into the action. However in doing so, there was a lot of "telling" about characters rather than "showing." Needless to say, it has been changed, and I want to show this because I was recently reading the Secret Agent Submissions on the Authoress' blog and noticed a lot of this month's entries did the same thing, which makes me think I'm not the only one who jumps the gun.
But below, see what can happen when you're not afraid to tear your manuscript to shreds and start over.
Gazing out beyond the borders of the white picket fence, dread clamps down on me. I’ve been there before. It’s lonely, depressing, secluded and always mingled with the fear that I’ll make a mistake, and one of the Nons will see the word, “witch,” branded on my forehead. Out there is what they call normal. They can keep normal. I’d rather stay at Wilcox, and I’m not the only one extending the last few precious seconds we have left here.
On a bench, underneath one of the magnolia trees, Matt and Jenna are saying their final goodbyes, or not saying them really. Beyond them, there’s a basketball game happening on the courts, a brutal one by the look of it. Dean already has a black eye and Steve just collapsed from an elbow to the ribs. It must be the re-match of the one from last week, called due to unlawful spell casting. One team slipped the other a slow locomotive draught in their Gatorades. This is their last day to play until next year and it looks like they’d all rather end up in the nurse’s office than go home with the title, “loser.”
I’d rather not go home at all.
A bead of sweat rolls down my forehead. I take the time to wipe it away only to keep it from dripping into my potion and ruining it. Squinting up at the board, I try not to look at the clock above it and instead focus on the instructions. Two grasshopper legs, add one at a time.
With a pair of tweezers, I pinch one of the browned legs from the jar and drop it in my cauldron. It lands with a hiss and the pink bubbling potion turns a shade darker. I drop the second one in and watch it dissolve before I stir the potion ten times, clockwise.
I’m on my last ingredient, five drops of nymph water. At the next table, Derrick’s potion is a sickly green color and he’s only now adding the dragon dung. The rest of the cauldrons in the room are filled with a bubbling rainbow I’ve already been through. At the front of the room sits the prize. The new cauldron, stainless steel and big enough for me to fit inside, which isn’t saying much. I’m so short, I can fit in most cauldrons, but I want to win this one.
Tilting the jar of pale green water over my cauldron, one drop falls into my potion followed by the second and the third.
“Finished,” a voice calls. I snap my wrist back as the fourth drop spills over the edge.
Madison has a wide smile stretched across her tanned cheeks and inside her cauldron is a lavender potion, burbling happily. No way. There is no way she won. Her potion has to be wrong.
This is still a WIP, but which beginning do you like better? I find that when my beta readers tell me a part is moving slowly, it's generally because it's been weighed down with telling and backstory. Sometimes it's hard to get rid of it, but it can make a huge difference when you do.