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Behind “The Process”: The First 50 Pages
Welcome to another BTP post, a series aimed at demystifying the writing process. Today’s topic:
The First Fifty
If you’ve written a short story then you’re probably familiar, at least intuitively, of the beginning-middle-end sequence of storytelling. Hell, you’re probably familiar with it if you’ve ever watched a TV show. Things are one way, something happens, good guys overcome situation and/or person, things are put back in order (sometimes better than we found them (sometimes not…), the end.
One could write a basic story in a a few sentences. See:
Billy the bunny was eating hay drinking from his water dish. Billy reached the bottom before he quenched his thirst. The food pellets…
He saw one of his people in the kitchen, loading dishes.
He ran to his person and nudged them with his head.
“Hi Billy!” his person said.
F**k you, man. Give me some water!, Billy said.
But bunnies don’t have vocal cords. So his person just saw a blank stare.
Billy stood on his hind legs and stared harder and deeper into his person’s eyes, channeling the thought, Feed me, assclown!
His person bent down to pet Billy. Billy ran to the edge of the kitchen and stopped, turning his attention back to his person.
“Oh, you want somethin–don’t you, bud?”
And a minute later, Billy had water.
Then he was hopping around with delight–until he was savagely eaten by a bear!
Make Your Idea Bigger
But if you ever decide you have a novella/novel length idea on your hands, I’d recommend you write the first fifty pages out. Don’t worry about anything while you’re writing. Just get the pages out. Then go back and do some global editing.
By that I mean, go and see where the strengths and weaknesses are. Make notes. Do you need to change character roles? Does the background make sense and set up the rest of the story? Are there parts of the core story that need to change? Are these characters juuuuuuust right? Are all the subplots working?
If there’s something that needs attention, you’ll find it in the first fifty. If there’s something missing, you’ll feel it in the first fifty. If you’re taking too long to get to the good part…
You get it.
It’s a good thing (for me, but we’re all different) to get to that point without any second guessing. Then you have enough to look at and really evaluate what you’re working with.
I write 50 by hand. Type it. Print it. Read it. Take notes. Edit/Rewrite. Move forward. Stop and evaluate when you’re done with the first third. Again at the two-third mark. Then again at the end. Then go full-ass editor a few rounds. That’s how ya do it.
At least, that’s my opinion. You do you.
Well that was fun. Oh, my legal team says I have to say this–ya know, because I have a bunny:
All bunnies in this blog are fictitious. Any similarity to actual bunnies, living or deceased, is purely coincidental. No bunnies were harmed, only loved, in the research for this blog.
If you haven’t yet, check out my podcast, Creative Ops, on all platforms. Every other week alternates between a short solo episode and a long interview with different creative types.
Goodbye, folks! (For now…) – Creative Ops
That’s All, Yous Guys!
Alright…let’s not make this weirder than it has to be. I gotta go, and I’m sure you do too. But if you’re not ready to say goodbye, listen to the podcast. There’s hours and hours of fun to be heard! And if you send me an audio clip with your name, where you’re from, and you saying “This is Creative Ops,” I’ll play it in a future intro.
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five! Follow me: