There are strong opinions out there about the right way to craft the beginning of a book. Often what is written on the first few pages will make or break a book for a reader, agent, or publisher. While I don’t think that there are any absolute right or wrong ways to approach the opening scene, I do know good advice when I see it.
Naturally, I can’t find where I read this little nugget. The memory jumped up and bit me while working on my NaNo project this week. If it was you dearest reader, let me know! The gist of the advise is this:
If you find yourself telling your reader, “Don’t give up, it gets really interesting at chapter X,” perhaps you should start the story there.
This thought occurred to me as I realized that the first five chapters of my new manuscript are completely and utterly boring. Don’t believe me? I have my main character cleaning a house while reconciling her relationship with her mother. She’s cleaning a house! If this were literary fiction it would be more acceptable, but this is supposed to be a mystery/thriller.
Am I beating myself up with having written all these scenes that now won’t be used? Absolutely not. When I started this project I knew nothing about my characters and only had the vaguest idea of what they were going to do. Sitting down and writing these scenes taught me what made the main character tick. When I return to revise this manuscript, sometime in January, I’ll have all the information I need to create a much stronger and compelling opening chapter that starts when the story gets interesting.
Here is the list of other advice I’ve collected of what to avoid when writing an opening chapter –
- Don’t start with the weather.
- Don’t start with the main character waking up.
- Avoid needless amounts of backstory.
- Skip the mundane.
- The phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night,” will get you laughed at.
- So will listing character characteristics as your opening line. “Jackie was a short happy dwarf, who liked cheese, and the occasional brewsky…” (Maybe that’s just me.)
I’m sure there are more out there, if you have a favorite you’d like to add please do so in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!