Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Opening: The Proven, Sure-fire (and Easy!) Way to Start Your Novel

Recently I was talking to a friend about writing, and she mentioned she had an idea she'd love to write about, if only she could figure out a way to begin. "It's those first words that keep tripping me up," she said. "Figuring out how to start is the hardest part."

I found this to be very interesting, mostly because I'd be willing to bet this is a fairly common conundrum. Beginnings are so important, right? You have to draw in the reader and set the tone for the entire book. There's so much pressure to absolutely nail those first few words.

It's quite intimidating. I get it.

I shared something with my friend during this conversation, and I'd like to share it with you today, too. It's the secret to starting any novel - or, any writing at all, I should say.

Are you ready?

Are you sure you're ready? Because it might blow your mind.

Ok, but don't say I didn't warn you. 

Here goes.

The secret is...

Put words on the page.

Yep, that's it. Any words at all! 

Just start writing. 

You don't have to commit to a beginning until much, much later in the writing process. You're not marrying these words. You're taking them out on a date. No, it's more casual than that, even. You're just going for coffee. You're driving separately, and you're each paying your own way. If it goes well, great! Maybe you'll spend more time together. If not, you can part ways with ease and get on with your life.

Relax - it's just coffee!

I'm currently editing a novel for release in January 2015, and I've had four major (and I mean major) revisions of the book's beginning since my first draft. In the first version, I started the story shortly after my main character's fall, giving the reader little glimpses into what happened as the story progressed. Then I tried starting in the middle, giving my reader an early sneak peek into one of the most climactic points of the book. Then I changed my mind and went back to the original beginning. And now, I've started the book during the main character's fall, so the reader can come alongside the heroine and gain a deeper empathy for her. (Sidenote: this was my editor's idea and I absolutely adore her for it. You rock, Kara!)

The point is, it's ok to circle back and experiment a little. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most writers rework their beginnings multiple times. Your work needs a chance to evolve, so give yourself a break if you feel like you haven't mastered a brilliant beginning yet.

Put words on the page. Don't stress about where it's going. Just let it get going.

If you've been struggling with where to begin, why not take some words out for coffee today? You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find your handsome prince of an opening, but I like to think that's part of the fun.


  1. Here for the A-Z Blog Challenge. I wrote a blog on opening sentences a while back, but never considered your idea. Interesting take. Hope you're enjoying the challenge as much as we are! Caryn

  2. For my first novel, I must have re-written that first page a hundred times. No exaggeration.

  3. "You're not marrying these words. You're taking them out on a date." LOL
    Ha! Love this idea! * still chuckling*
    Writer In Transit