When I started writing for children, I wrote pretty good first drafts. But when critiques came in, I didn’t know how to address the issues they raised. I could make minor tweaks in wording and add or drop sentences here and there. But I couldn’t figure out how to rework what I had written, how to see it differently, how to imagine something new.
One strategy that helps me get beyond seeing only a single way to write a chapter, article, or story is to brainstorm multiple openings. For thirty minutes or so, I push myself to keep writing until I’ve created five or six different beginnings.
Writing multiple openings lets me experiment with the tone, focus, structure, etc. It eliminates the pressure of "getting it right" the first time. Also, this process usually clarifies which opening is most promising: the one that makes me want to keep writing—and hopefully, makes the reader want to keep reading.
The first chapter in one of my works-in-progress describes the early life of the First Emperor of China (the one often known for his army of terracotta warriors). How could I start the chapter in a way that would draw readers in? Here are several openings I drafted:
Question: which opening do you think works best?
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