What Makes A Great Beginning?

By on October 15, 2020

Beginning your novel is often the very most challenging part. No matter how much research you have done, no matter how often you have mentioned your idea to family and friends and they have gone ‘wow, that sounds brilliant,’ no matter how much work you have done creating timelines, spider maps, chapter outlines and so on, when you actually sit down, pull up a blank document on your computer and take a deep breath…it can suddenly feel like writing a note is a very overwhelming task indeed.

To be honest, if you feel this way, you are not wrong. Writing a book is a mammoth undertaking, and if you are feeling a little daunted by the prospect, you are not alone. The beginning of your novel feels so massive because it is hugely important. A weak opening can put readers off before they’ve even bought your book. Think about it; if you hope to have your book in bookstores, browsers will often pick up a book they are interested in a have a scan of the first few pages to see if it’s something that they might like. Similarly, on giant bookselling sites such as Amazon, readers can sample your novel without buying it if you use the ‘look inside’ feature. So, in short, your beginning has to be good.

So what are the kinds of things writers should be aware of when crafting the opening to their stories? Here are some things to consider.

Make the fist line startling

Your very first line should be startling, attention-grabbing, arresting, and unusual.

Begin in the middle of action

Don’t wait too long before creating action. In fact, if possible, begin with action to immediately draw your readers in.

Introduce your intriguing protagonist

Make sure your protagonist makes an appearance, and that he is compelling and exciting and relatable from the get-go.

Don’t forget to set the scene

Action is essential, but so is grounding your readers and immersing them in your world.

Set the mood

Show your readers what to expect by creating a mood and atmosphere that will keep them gripped and wanting more.

Up the stakes

Add drama right away by upping the stakes in the first chapter - don’t make your readers wait for your story to get interesting.

End your chapter with a cliffhanger

Add tension and excitement immediately by ending the first chapter on a cliffhanger that means readers will find it impossible to was away from your story.

Don’t get lost in exposition

Don’t get too bogged down in details, backstory, history, and so on. Keep it present and active and reveal these details as the story unfolds.

So there you have it - when trying to make an excellent beginning for your book, consider the above, and you won’t go far wrong. You beginning is crucial, but just remember that you can always go back and do more work on it, don’t let the pressure of writing a perfect beginning cripple you before you’ve even started - because starting is the most important thing.

bethany cadman
Bethany Cadman - bethanycadmancreates.com

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