ROBERTA: Some years ago, nearing the end of my training in psychotherapy, I described a new patient who had been assigned to me for therapy to my supervisor. He told me how much he loved starting with a new patient. Anything could happen. All kinds of fascinating information would be revealed. He found the beginning to be the most exciting part of the therapy relationship. I was surprised. I felt better in the middle of the process after I'd gotten to know my patient pretty well and had begun to feel we were making progress in sorting out their problems.
Recently I saw a post on the Guppies listserv (unpublished Sisters in Crime chapter) about how exciting starting a new book could be. Peg said: "I'm in the beginning stages of plotting a new manuscript, and I've been struck anew with how much fun this is! All the frustrations of rejections aside, there is such a great feeling about creating a world, characters, personalities, motives, etc. The actual writing down of words can be an exercise in hair pulling, but this part is pure fun!"
The parallel with therapy seemed amazing! And it works for reading too--it got me thinking how much I enjoy being in the middle of a good book, rather than just beginning to delve into the book's world.
So what do you like about writing--or reading--a book? Getting started? Plowing through the middle? Wrapping things up?
HALLIE: I think more books have good beginnings than have good middles. And fewer still deliver at the end. So when I'm reading a book that's still good in the middle or end, I'm blissed out.
As far as writing, I find it all excruciating. Typing THE END the first time is the high point, and rewriting is much more fun.
And I think I'm glad your supervisor wasn't my therapist...since the 'pleasure' that he finds in his work seems to come from satisfying his own curiosity rather than seeing growth in his patients.
ROBERTA: Oh no, I don't think that was it at all Hallie! I'm sorry if I made it sound that way. He found people so interesting and he really enjoyed the process of getting to know someone and then working on their issues. But the beginning was full of surprises.
RHYS: I love toying with a first paragraph, long before I start a book, but I have to confess I find the first chapters hard. I don't work from an outline. I don't really know where I'm going so it's sort of panic-driven floundering for the first fifty pages or so. Then I start to breathe normally again and can see my way ahead and by page 150 I pick up speed like a horse sighting its stable.
JAN: I confess that I'm resistant to starting new books. It It takes more and more for the writer to get me to buy in. I'm a hard sell. But then at the end, I'm so sad that world is over.
So I guess I'm with you Roberta on middles.
The same goes for writing. The beginning, while fun, presents so many possible choices, there's always the anxiety it won't work. The middle, while rife with problems to solve, means full engagement with this world I've made up.
There's always a point in any article, essay, or novel I'm writing where I get this AH-HA moment and I JUST know it's going to work. That's my absolute favorite part.
RO: Reading is all good - either I love it or I put it down and pick up something else that has the potential to be great. Right now I can't wait for July. I have a stack of books I'm anxious to plow into.
OTOH, Now that I'm in the endless re-write stage of book four, I'm thinking back to the beginning and remembering it as fun. But it's all work. Sometimes fun, sometimes "how can that just be three pages....??" or "will anyone believe this ending or was it obvious from the start?"
HANK: Writing? Oh, I can find fun parts in every third--and I do agree, Jan, there's always a moment, knock wood, where you think of the thing that's going to make it work. The linchpin piece that makes it hang together.
Let me just say that right now I'm on page 4. If by the end of tomorow, I can be on page 7, just a bit closer to the end of the beginnning of the beginning, I'll be so thrilled! (Do I hear the sound of people knocking on wood?)
ROBERTA: Knock wood, knock wood. And yes, Rhys, yes, panic-driven floundering, that's where I am! Wondering whether Jan's Ah-ha moment will ever come... How about you readers and writers, do you love the beginning, the middle, or the end?