For the past several months, I've struggled with the beginning of my third draft. There is tension between the need to introduce the protagonist in her element, with her core traits revealed to the reader, and the need to introduce the setting and plot she will encounter.
I don't have a plan for how to resolve this. I'm not writing here to say how I have slain this dragon, but rather to lay out exactly why he keeps eating my lunch. Basically, my protagonist is a multifaceted person with a history and a present that each impinge upon the plot in their own way, but also whose future veers off in an unexpected direction—but not immediately. To be perfectly honest, I'm not convinced this isn't a mistake on my part.
So often, we set out to tell "the story," and we constantly search for how to tell it well, trying out different styles, strategies, and starting at different points along the story's timeline. When someone says, "Well, it would be better if you—" our response is all too often, "Yeah, but that's not how it happened."
...Well, ok buddy, but let's remember that it didn't happen.
We must remember that our job is not simply to tell the story but also to create it, unless we're just recounting that funny thing that happened to my cousin's friend's uncle's niece that one time. It is not a sufficient defense to say that we must be faithful to the story when the story can be anything we like. As such, we are—I am—left with the need to determine what the story really is, and to consider that question while bearing in mind exactly how it will be told.
All of this comes to a head when writing the very first scene of the book, which should lay the groundwork for everything that is to come in order to set the reader's expectations appropriately. This is kind of a tall order for me, and I don't know if it's ever going to happen. It's not essential. What is essential is that I finish the damn book. To that end, I swear I'm going to stop rewriting this scene and moving things around.
...after just one more rewrite. I think.