Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Crafty Beginnings

At the moment I'm staring at the blank pages of my currently Untitled Heroes/Villains novel just trying to figure out what to write.

I don't know about anyone else, but I hate beginnings. I never know where to start or what to say. They say you've only got ten seconds to hook a reader, and I believe this 100%. When I read a book and I'm not instantly drawn into the story I find it very hard to want to continue (even though I often push on and hope that it improves).

On various blogs there are various suggestions as to what a novel should not start with:
  1. Dialogue - the reader doesn't know why they should care about the character.
  2. Starting too early - find the place in the story with the most dramatic tension.
  3. Dream sequence - a reader will feel cheated if the first chapter turns out to be nothing but a dream.
  4. Prologue - this seems to be the biggest no no in novel beginnings, both agents and publishers hate them.
  5. Too much information - don't load the beginning with all the character's back story.
  6. Endless description - don't start with describing what time of day it is and how the weather's like, nobody wants to know.
  7. Using a cheesy (cliched) hook - getting the readers attention is the desired goal, but don't use a cheesy hook that screams out "look at me".
Nathan Bransford has a great post about books beginning with dialogue
Kristin Nelson has a great post about  why prologues often don't work

With so many things stating what 'not' to do, how can a novel start that will draw the reader in? One of the most important things to starting a story is to establish that the protagonist has something significant at stake.

So, how do you choose how to start your novels? Do you try to avoid any of the things listed above?


Danielle said...

Ugh, I'm with you, I rewrote my first chapter about six times, the first few paragraphs probably ten. I do try to avoid those things, I try to get into the action pretty quick.

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

LOL! I *plan* to rewrite the first chapter at least ten times before I write the first word. Until the book is written, how can you tell where and how it should start?

Just write about the stuff that interests you most, and don't worry about making it perfect - chances are you'll delete the first few pages. Or revise it completely.

Just start. Fix it later. MUCH later. :-)

lisa and laura said...

This is precisely why Lisa ALWAYS starts our books. She's too much of a control freak to hand over the reins at the beginning and I'm too much of a headcase to start. We make a great team.

Kerri Cuev said...

I rewrote the first chapter way to many times for my liking. Good luck, I'm sure you will get it right!

Lydia Kang said...

Ugh, I totally sympathize. I've already written three new first chapters. No, actually I think it's five. I just counted again!!!!

This is a great post, thank you!

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