When I began the novel I’m currently working on, Ourselves and Others, this was my process:
- Thought, “I’m going to write a book based on what happened to me.”
- Opened a word document.
- Proceeded to write the most boring 10 pages I could possibly write.
Luckily, upon an initial reading I realized it was awful and promptly scrapped it in favor of “take 2,” which is 300 times better than my first try. But even after starting over, things were rocky for a while. I ended up completely restructuring the opening, changing tenses, and renaming my main character about three times before the first chapter was up to snuff.
This only proved to me that the hardest part of the writing process is indeed the beginning. Getting started is difficult enough on its own, but then creating something that will hook readers and draw them into the story? That’s the real challenge. That’s where the fate of your book hangs in the balance, after all. A novel could be a masterpiece, but if the beginning doesn’t attract, no one will read far enough to find that out.
Personally, when beginning a project I always try to think, “What would make me want to read this book?” and then write that thing. Easier said than done, I know. But I do have a little trick up my sleeve to help with that:
Raise a question.
That’s it; it’s that simple. In the first paragraph—in the first line, if you can—present a question that must be answered. Curiosity is a great motivator for the reader. And of course, you don’t literally have to ask a question. What I mean is, say something that will make the reader ask a question—even something as basic as “what happened?” or “what does that mean?” They’ll read on to look for the answer, and hopefully your writing keeps them reading even after they find it.
Today’s Prompt: Write a story that begins in an ending and ends in a beginning.
And here’s a bonus “prompt” for those of you who have completed works or have works in progress:
Copy and paste the opening paragraph or two of your novel in the comments section. Share your beginning with the rest of us!
If you share your opening paragraph and you have something published, feel free to leave the link, just in case you’ve hooked somebody. ;)
I’ll be posting my openings in the comments as well, so read on if you’re interested.