Beginnings

You know what the hardest part of writing a manuscript is for me?

The beginning.

Seriously, it takes me FOREVER to start a story. I know what’s going to happen in the story, I know what the conflicts will be, and I usually have an idea about the ending… but how do I begin??

I think the first sentence of a novel can pretty much make or break it for me. I do give books 100 pages to prove themselves to me, even if I am hating them; but I’ve usually made my mind up after reading the first paragraph.

Not to say that I am an expert AT ALL on the subject, but I do think the beginning of your book should be exceptionally strong. It needs to hook the reader right off the bat, so that even though they only meant to read a little bit of the story, they suddenly look up and an hour has passed and they are 65 pages in without even realizing it.

I didn’t learn this nugget of wisdom until I wrote my most recent book, The Clearing. I tried really hard to hook my reader right off the bat by starting off with a sentence that would raise a lot of questions in the reader’s mind.

Here is the first sentence of Chapter 1:

“Before I came to Maine, I never actually wished to die.”

Yes, very short and simple, but what I’m hoping to do is make the reader curious about several things:

1) Who is “I”?

2) Why did this character come to Maine, and from where?

3) What has happened in Maine to make them want to die?

Three questions to intrigue the reader, right from the start. (Or so I hope.)

So, fellow writers, what is your first sentence? Or maybe it’s not your first sentence that you use to hook the reader – maybe it’s the first paragraph, or maybe it’s a bombshell you drop somewhere in Chapter 1. Either way, how are you hoping to intrigue your reader enough to keep them reading?

Post your “hook” in the comment section if you would like to, and explain how you feel this will keep the reader involved. I think we could all learn a lot from each other on this particular topic, and I would love to see how everyone goes about beginning their novel!

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5 thoughts on “Beginnings

  1. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    This one is tricky. I often have a terrible beginning, but will go back and fix it up in the editing stage. It ususally takes me a while to find the voice, too. So, not ready to post a beginning yet, but I think your beginning is fantastic! Very hook-y. I'd read it!

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    In my completed ms, I realized far too late my beginning wasn't a very good spot for a beginning. I ended up rewriting the entire first half of the novel to change up the timeline and make it work better. It's better, but I'm still not sure.

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