Everyone was searching for a better beginning to his or her novel. Everyone, as per usual, asked his or her friend the Internet. The Internet knew a lot of stuff and was very wise, but it was also self-effacing. “Don’t believe everything that’s posted,” the Internet often told everyone, not wanting to be found a liar. Everyone wanted to believe everything, because they were friends, but this was difficult because the Internet often said things that were contradictory, as with the beginning of novels.
The Internet said to start at the beginning.
The Internet said you will never know the beginning unless you start, so just start.
The Internet said to start in the middle and cut the first four pages.
Everyone reread his or her first four pages. While everyone was not satisfied with their place at the beginning, they seemed needed. In fact, the longer everyone looked at them, the more everyone thought them the work of a genius.
Everyone could not cut them. They were his or her children: Jody, the sanctimonious twelve-year-old with his or her penchant for fart jokes; Star, the sensitive ten-year-old with a heart of literal gold, quite an expense at the time but luckily covered by insurance, given his or her life on the balance sheet; Journey, the rambunctious little dweeb, eight years of age, with a weakness for all things chocolate; and finally Jan, the six-year-old with the personality of everyone’s spouse, which is to say a missing personality, because everyone’s spouse had run away.
“You have to kill your darlings,” the Internet said, “if you want to write.”
The advice seemed nonsensical. Everyone was looking for a start, and if everyone sacrificed the darlings, what would he or she have left? The darlings were essential.
But the Internet was not to be persuaded. “The darlings will keep you from the end of the story and thus from the true beginning,” the Internet said. “Kill the darlings.”
Everyone cried as he or she moved the cursor across the keyboard. First Jody disappeared, then Star, then Journey, then Jan.
Everyone was alone. Except for the dog. The dog was in the third paragraph, breathing on everyone at the keyboard.
Save the dog, the Internet advised. “People love a good dog story.”
“Are you writing this or am I?” everyone asked.
The Internet didn’t answer. The Internet was miffed. Everyone had asked for the Internet’s advice, and the Internet had given it, and if everyone was going to get angry, then there was no reason for the Internet to waste its time.
Everyone was miffed too. Everyone wanted back his or her darlings. Everyone was crying inside and out. But the way of return had been expunged. This was the beginning.
Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.
To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.