This time, I took my troubled serial killer novel. I was mired in how to start the damned thing, so I took one start for review. I was right. The opening stunk. General consensus. Was I pissed? No. Was I hurt? Maybe a little, but the six others in the workshop validated what I knew in my heart: I was starting in the wrong place and using a frame that was a cliche.
Out went the frame. No longer do I start with a letter to "someone." I start at the beginning and will let the story unfold in real time. No longer do I start at a point later in the narrative and then fall into a backstory. Yikes! What was I thinking? Or was I over thinking? Still not sure, but I do know the opening lines of "My sorority sisters and I tried sex, drugs and rock and roll, but they weren't enough for me. Then I killed someone and found my true calling." had to go. And out they went where they were. They may reappear at a later point.
One exercise we did was incredible. It's called 3 x 3, hence the title of this post. It's all about reducing your book to three words x three lines. Laura Benedict, our teacher of this writing genre workshop, used The Shining, by Stephen King as her illustration. 3 x 3 goes like this:
Writer caretakes hotel
Ghosts haunt writer
Writer goes insane
Boils King's many words to the core. My 3 x 3 might look like this:
Woman kills stranger
Woman desires rationale
Rational defines woman
Had to admit, this was a tough exercise. Can you do this for your current WIP? Try it and let me know how it works.
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.