Writing group

How to NOT start your novel and what to do instead

‘Never judge a book by it’s cover.’

We say it all the time, but let’s face it. Everyone judges a book based on what it looks like- even if it’s a little bit.

Personally, I roll my eyes when I see yet another young female teen swanning over the front pages of a YA with her hair all aflutter.

But we’re not here to talk about cover design, oh no. We’re here to talk about the second thing your readers will look at.

The very beginning of your novel.

Most readers pass judgement after reading the first three chapters or so of a novel. So it’s important that you make them as interesting as possible. Here are three cliche (and often frowned upon,) openings and how you can change them.

 

Don’t open with a dream sequence.

Something really mysterious and full of suspense and tension happens right at the beginning, and the reader is really, really into when..

‘And then she woke up.’

It makes the reader feel cheated, especially if you then go into the mundane’s of the MC’s life until the actual plot starts.

Instead, open in the middle of action.

Keep the suspense and the tension. Give a little mystery and intrigue to push your reader into moving forward and keep them interested. Something plot related has to happen after the MC wakes up. Start there.

 

Don’t start with a page full of exposition/description.

Describing the weather, your MC, their bedroom, their family, their life, with little or no dialogue can read a bit tedious, especially if there is no hint of the actual plot.

Instead, add the description into the story.

Sprinkle the information throughout the novel, while the plot is happening. Cut out the long paragraphs where you describe the setting, or your MC giving a long inner monologue of how they’re afraid of dogs. Show us instead.

‘Her feet stumbled on the pebbled ground as she headed towards the docks. The buildings towered over her here.’

‘He froze, the barking getting closer. He clenched his fists to stop them shaking, breath coming in short.’

 

Don’t use a prologue.

‘1000 years ago, a mystical creature tried to devour the World, but was stopped. It was prophesized that the Chosen One would one day stop the creature’s return and save the World.’

Is it completely relevant to have the entire backstory of your novel explained before the reader even meets your MC? Do events that happened 5, 10, 1000 years ago need to be explained to understand the story you’re about to tell?

Instead, start after the beginning.

Start with the consequences of the creature returning. Start with the warning signs. Start with the current story. If you need to tell a story in order to tell your story, you’re not telling it right.

 

What are your pet peeves when reading the beginning of a story?

 

Good thoughts and happy writing!

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