Earlier this year (and for pretty much every year I've been working on this), I was struggling with how best to start off IVAR. Since I had first conceived the idea for this story, I had always had a pretty strong idea of how I wanted the story to start off and what I wanted the prologue to be. However, despite my own convictions, I began to think that maybe the prologue I had in mind wouldn't be enough to really captivate readers and hold them till the more interesting parts of the journey. So, of course, I decided to be an idiot and screw about looking for a better alternative.
I had been reading this DA journal post: link (WARNING: Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones), and I began thinking to myself: Well, gee. You see, I had never really considered the ways in which different authors structured their prologues before, or whether or not that was actually to tell the reader certain things. I mean, I always knew that it was meant as the introduction of your novel, so of course it had to have a hook, but to be honest I've never put that much thought into any of my prologues. To loosely quote a metaphor I read once, George R. R. Martin is constructing a house, with blue prints down to the last detail, while I'm messing about in a garden with all my favorite plants.
So of course you can see why I immediately panicked and automatically thought: Oh no! My current prologue isn't good enough! There's no planning here! It doesn't tell the reader anything! It's not even action-packed enough to make up for that!
And so then I spent about a month or so dicking about and trying to find a better prologue alternative. During that time, I also read The Mice Templar, and decided that maybe IVAR would be better off as a graphic novel after all (if it isn't already painfully apparent, I spent quite a lot of time flip-flopping between this story being told in prose or graphic novel format). Of course, in accordance with that, I still had to change my prologue to something more action-packed and/or likely to get the reader's attention.
I did, however, have a sudden epiphany where that was concerned, and suddenly, I had it! I would use this new prologue, continue on with the rest of the story as planned and, because this was obviously going to take more than one book, I could use my original prologue elsewhere. Perfect!
The problem with this, though, is that in doing this, I would have to speed up the story far beyond the point at which I was willing to go, in order to get to the action quicker, and that would necessitate leaving out some long-planned scenes and characters which I really just couldn't bring myself to let go of. Now, I know that this probably happens to a lot of writers. If it didn't, I feel that editors would pretty much be out of a job. But I like to hang on to things more than most, so, doggone it!, I was going to find a way to do so.
And then I read The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand's beautiful masterpiece, and it all became clear to me. These were the words I wrote down while reading that novel:
"This is a highly original work. It doesn't answer to me. It doesn't answer to anybody, only to itself. It is not new; there are signs of influence to be found here, but it is all me, and everything I want it to be. Nothing more, nothing less. I didn't write this for the purpose of securing a publisher's check, I wrote this for the pure sake of writing it, and because it had to be done. I don't care what anybody else thinks of it. My only object is to get it done."
I realized that writing the story I came to tell was what was so important to me about IVAR, not pleasing a public I have never met (though I will concede that for the sake of publishing that is rather important). And I can write that story any way I see fit. Those that like it will read it, those that don't, won't. It was all very simple, and I had been stressing myself out over nothing.
Beginnings are important, but always choose the one that's right for your story, not one that appeals to your public but is otherwise shoddy.