Capturing the Elusive Beginning
If there’s one area of a book that trips up writers, it’s the beginning. That’s because you’re smart enough to know that the beginning of your book has to hook a reader. You have to say something so profound, so funny, or so interesting that your audience can’t help but buy your book. This can create a lot of pressure and stress you out. Here’s how to cope:
You don’t have to settle on the first beginning that you write. A director wouldn’t watch just one actor audition for a part. He’d want to see a lot of different actors and only then would he start narrowing down his choices.
You can do the same thing with your beginnings. Write several opening paragraphs and keep in mind that you can always extend auditions and keep searching until that perfect beginning walks in and wows you.
Start your book in the middle of an action sequence. For example, you’re writing about a doctor who saves the life of a teenage girl, only to discover later that the girl is the daughter he never knew he had. Don’t open your book with three paragraphs about how the doctor woke up and went through his usual daily routine. That’s not captivating.
Instead, start with the moment the doctor sees the nearly lifeless girl on the gurney. Write about how his heart pounds and adrenaline kicks in as he fights to save her. That’s a good action sequence and it will intrigue your readers.
If your book is non-fiction, you can still lead with a captivating story. Once your reader is hooked, you’ll have plenty of time to share background information and weave in additional details. But for now, focus on the action.
Not sure a story’s the way to go? Try starting with a quote instead. This can be a quote that inspires you or one that sums up the chapter to come. You can also try using a humorous quote to make your readers laugh, but keep in mind this may not be appropriate for all books.
If you’re having trouble finding quotes, use a quote directory. Two good ones are Brainy Quote and Quotelicious. You can use the search bar to find a specific quote if you know the author or you can browse by topic.
Another way to start your book is to write about a conversation taking place and go from there. However, try to keep your conversation limited to just 2-3 characters. Remember that your readers are just now learning who’s who, so you don’t want to risk confusing them.
Make sure that the conversation is interesting and not mundane. Two men outside a diner discussing the weather will result in a bland scene. But if those two men are discussing how to get away with murder, then the conversation is naturally more intriguing.
Keep experimenting with different openings. If you continue to write, you’ll eventually find the beginning you truly love.