Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things You Shouldn't Do in Your Beginning

The beginning is a pretty important part of a novel, because most agents/publishers will leave your book at the first page if it doesn't really catch them. Some of them might be a bit more patient if your query letter looks promising, but you certainly can't count on that. And none of your readers will be reading a query letter, at most they'll take on a paragraph or two. So, here are some things that agents tend to hate in the first page, and look boring anyway:

1. The first line is a rhetorical question. This looks bad, and most readers will actually answer it with something negative in mind.

2. You introduce too many people in the first paragraph. We don't need to know all of your character's family members right off the bat.

3. Starting in the middle of an action scene which makes no sense. You might think that this will help 'hook' your reader, but it won't. What you need to do is introduce the main conflict almost right away.

4. If you want to put in a prologue, (you should ask yourself if you really need one) keep it very short. And it should be entertaining, not something that could be removed. (If you've read Eragon, you'll know that the whole prologue could have been excluded. As a matter of fact, a good fifth of the book could have been excluded, but let's not talk about that right now.)

5. Starting off with something that's cliche. If you've heard of something once, agents/publishers will have heard of it fifty times.

6. Having grammar errors or showing that you can't link paragraphs properly.

7. Starting off on some boring scene.

8. Building useless suspense regarding an object/person which isn't even important.

9. Introducing the story through some character's point of view who doesn't even have a major role for the rest of the novel.

10. Beginning by describing a scene. No one is interested if the roses sparkled with dew in the first line. Leave that kind of stuff for later.

Now, like everything with regards to writing, all of this advice should be taken with a grain of salt. The beginning is the hardest part of a book (the ending's no piece of cake either) and you'll see a whole lot of books that have been published and are successful, but break the norms. If there's a good reason for you to break one of these above rules, do it.

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