Once upon a time I started at the beginning and kept going, fairly certain where stories were leading me (or where, sometimes, I was leading them.) If the middle and end evolved to make the beginning no longer make sense, I changed it later. Grudgingly, but I changed it. Names changed, habits of characters changed, precipitating events changed.
Now I've changed. I'm a bit boggled. Probably this is a step forward, some kind of improvement.
Or so I hope. Maybe it's just different. Different as in not the same rather than different as in somehow better.
The weird thing is? I don't mind so much. I am impatient. I have more novels and stories and even articles that I want to write than I will ever get to put on paper, because even if I have 5 ideas, before I finish the third, more have come and, impatient, I've rearranged the order of importance and am moving on to a new idea. I complete almost everything I start, for better or worse and ignoring the file on my computer labeled Lame Novel Starts -- those only got a paragraph or two or a description. They don't count. But only Harp's World and City remain from very long ago as unfinished novels. Southern Lights and Shifting Sands are both from 08, the later from October. They were simply preempted by something more pressing.
But the change? The beginnings. I think I'm figuring out stories earlier, having a better grasp of where they're going when I start, or at least what I want from the character or what the theme is or ... something. Because I'm starting beginnings further in, insisting things happen right away, not panicking that I will have a -- gasp! -- flashback if that serves the story. Learning how to get across the most information as quickly as possible, enough to say "Here's what you need to know to move on."
So I'm writing beginnigs over and over. Tonight I started a novelette for a market with a distinct deadline. Lot of words. Not a lot of time. I've written a proposal on it and I know the general story, but I had two different ideas for starting it. I tried to combine them. I tried them separately. I tried another idea that came from nowhere. The voice didn't hit me. It just wasn't there. There was nothing happening. A description in one version alluded to events that would shortly unfold, but not very interestingly and the situation left me not liking hte characters much, which I find untennable.
The fourth start (I think, thought perhaps fifth) fit. And it was from the other character's point of view. Didn't expect that at all. But I like it and I've got my usual 600 word start or so (at 600 words into a new story I apparently panic and have to go have tea and cat sympathy and, tonight, Advil. The next day I can write around 1000 to 1500 words much more calmly. Weird, that's all.)
And now I must go do some nonfiction and pay the bills and all that. Yes, it's 10 p.m. And yes, I'd actually rather sleep. But much of this day was lost to nonsense, oversleeping (because I was up till 3 and awake again at 5 and then out till 8:30 because either I slept through the world's most annoying cell phone alarm [not likely] or because I was tired) and driving and a run (! Not nonsense!) and lunch with a friend (very nice, and involved free writing) and not much that pays the mortgage.
And as a reward, after some nonfiction, I'll do my best to find The Very End of the current novel. And also, tea. And Advil.