Aside from the obvious, what is “the beginning”? What does it do? What purpose does it serve?
I like to think of the beginning as the introduction. It’s where you introduce your setting, characters, and character goals/conflicts while capturing the reader’s attention and avoiding boring backstory.
There’s no set length for a beginning. It can be the first chapter or the first few chapters. A lot of it will depend on the type of book you’re writing, as well as your writing style. Take as long as you need to, but avoid the temptation to write backstory. The beginning marks the start of the story (not the start of the characters’ lives). Don’t bog down the reader with a six chapter set-up, just get to the main event.
So how do you start? I polled the pros and pooled together their advice. I’ve taken their suggestions and added it to my experience to present you with Beginning Writing Tips:
1. Start writing. If you worry too much about getting the beginning just right, you’ll never get anywhere. Sit down and write.
2. Evaluate your work (and be honest!). Things to look for:
– Where does the story really start?
– What’s happening? (Irrelevant action and everyday events don’t work – we don’t want a car chase in a sweet romance, nor do we want to watch the hero take a shower and brush his teeth).
3. Write, edit, move on, repeat. Beginnings are hard to write. Don’t obsess over it. Take the time to honestly and carefully edit it, but then move on. Write the rest of the story. You’ll end up re-reading and revising your manuscript multiple times (that includes your beginning). If it’s not quite perfect on your first shot, don’t worry. Keep writing, and come back to it.
After you’ve finished writing your beginning, you’ll want to go back and focus on your hook – that thing on the first page (in the first paragraph, the first line) that grabs your reader (agent and editor) and pulls them into the story. We’ll look at that next.
For now – what tricks/techniques have you learned for writing great beginnings?