How to begin your book?
It’s a question to which every author seeks an answer every time he or she begins a new work. I believe very firmly that every book needs a different approach. But how to approach the beginning so that your novel can get going with ease and it’s not just that you write better but your readers also enjoy reading it.
There is no foolproof way, but the following tips will help you get your story into gear. Basically you can start your story in three different ways. It depends on you and your style of writing which way you pick to write the beginning of your novel. So do you,
In your mind, you have already charted the beginning, middle and the end of the book. You have a clear idea what you want to convey to the readers and hence you start with where you want the story to take off. This usually involves a peek into the character and a look at the character’s life or what is called as story world. Then you work up to the inciting incident.
You can begin straightaway with action but that’s more difficult to carry off because the reader needs to have a clear idea where or how the action started.
If you are a plotter this would be your favored method to write. Or you could,
Write as you go:
You have no idea what your story consists of. You don’t know the end. You have a brilliant story idea and you can’t wait to put down the words.
In this case, you had better put down everything that comes to your mind. This type of free flow writing or pantsing will require rewrites and probably re-rewrites before you get your story done. So, in any case you will be rewriting your beginning. Yes, you can absolutely do that after you finish the book. In fact, many authors prefer to write the beginning afterwards. It can be crystal clear where it is just a muddy pool of ideas when you began the story.
If you want to write free flow, to avoid wasting time, it’s better to know three things:
The heart of your story – what is your story about. Why should anyone give a damn about what you are writing.
Your character’s journey – What is the endpoint your character is striving for? It can be a physical, emotional or spiritual goal, but it is sensible to at least have some idea of it.
Your story genre – How you are going to tie up the ends may depend on what genre you are writing. In romance, for example, it’s customary to have a happy-ever-after. In horror, things almost always end up worse. In inspirational stories, the protagonist learns a lesson, though he or she may not get what they wanted at the beginning of the story.
Or you can be the one who follows,
If you have a rough idea of how story is going to progress, you can probably choose right away how to begin the story with maximum impact. I prefer to strongly visualize the beginning – often the beginning is so strong for me that the rest of the story has to be stirred to gel with it. I might even change the character’s profession or the location of the story to fit in with the beginning. It might be different or the same for you. But if you fix the beginning right away, you won’t have to come back and face the change again.
Be careful that your beginning straightaway fixes the reader in the location and time of your story e.g. is it medieval India or Planet X-8i4 in 2095 or present day NYC? The reader should be grounded in the setting. At the same time, exposition about what your character has been through in their life or what they did all afternoon is to be avoided. As soon as you can, bring the focus on the moment of action i.e. what is happening that is of importance? What is propelling your story to take off in the direction you have envisioned?
It’s hard to list all the finer points needed to make the beginning shine, but hope this gives you a better idea of how you want to go about writing down the first few hundred words of your novel. Do leave a comment how you liked this post and anything else you want to share or ask about book beginnings.
For more information on how to get going on your book, check out my book Begin Your Book, easy steps to build your fiction step by step, dealing with chapters, scenes, characters, writer’s block etc.
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