It was a dark and stormy night...
A familiar opening, right? And maybe a little cliche. No matter what stage we're at in our writing, most of us know that beginning lines, paragraphs, and pages are some of the most important parts of a novel. Not only do you want to draw in readers when they finally get their hands on your books, but you want to draw in that all important agent or editor.
Many agents will give you a chance to wow them with your writing, either with an initial request of the first scene or the first five to ten pages of your manuscript along with your query, or with a request for a partial. This may be the only chance you have to show them what you've got.
Just like the cliche line above, there are other ways of opening a novel that will have a hard time enticing an agent or reader to move on.
* Include a prologue that is extremely long or wordy, or ultimately has nothing to do with the novel.
* Get carried away with description of any sort but fail to either make it have purposeful meaning to the story or do it in a unique way.
* Begin with another type of cliche, such as a character going through a scene and then they end up waking up and it was only a dream/nightmare.
* Go on and on about a character doing menial tasks that fail to draw the reader in.
* Have a lot of description, dialogue, or even internal thoughts but fail to give the reader any framework for the story (i.e. no hint of setting, time, etc.)
Those are just a few things to avoid in the beginning of your story. While there's not a perfect formula to writing the beginning lines or paragraphs of a story, there are a few ways to start off a story that will help draw a reader in.
* Showcase your voice. Give the reader a taste of what your writing style is like. Let them know you can be unique.
* Make the reader want more. Make them want to turn the page to find out what's going to happen.
* Introduce an interesting character or a character who has something at stake. Or create an immediate obstacle.
* Incite questions from a reader, either by adding conflict, tension, or something unusual or funny.
* Create action. Move your characters and their story by jumping in the middle of a scene/conversation with action, and characters being proactive.
Ultimately there's no perfect way to start a story. But you can beef up those first pages by being unique and giving the reader a reason to turn the page.
What kinds of openings have or haven't worked for you? What do you enjoy seeing in first pages?