Writing a novel provides many amazing opportunities. You can express yourself, meet new like-minded people and, finally, you can publish your book and become famous all over the world! A great idea for your book is one of the pillars of crafting a strong literary work. In order to draw the audience in, however, you will have to start strong.
The percentage of people who abandon books is much higher than many authors imagine it to be. There are people out there who will give up while exploring the first chapter. While others may persevere, a boring first chapter will shake their faith in the quality of the book.
Crafting a powerful opening is an important, yet incredibly challenging task. To master the essentials, you will have to focus on the following.
Learn from the Masters
This doesn’t mean you should copy ideas that work and implement them in your own book. Writers, however, should be avid readers. Going through the best literature out there will help you enrich your own style and explore approaches you would have never considered otherwise.
Acquaint yourself with the books considered to have the best openings. It’s a good idea to have a notebook by your side for the purpose of drafting notes and even doing brainstorming sessions while reading.
Getting in touch with fellow writers could also be important to discuss the biggest problems you face and identify the ways in which others have handled those. Opportunities like National Novel Writing Month are excellent for writers who may be in need of some assistance and inspiration during the work process.
You Don’t Have to Grab the Reader Immediately
So many writers commit the grave mistake of attempting to grab the reader immediately and provoke a powerful emotional response.
Unless you’re Stephen King, you should refrain from trying such an aggressive approach. Often, the terror or suspense will seem forced if they don’t occur naturally.
Instead, you may want to adopt an alternative approach.
Get the reader interested about the protagonist. Make them see the person you’ve conceived in your imagination. Why is this protagonist likeable? Why is their journey worth going on? Little glimpses of the character and their humanity could draw people in without being bombastic.
The very same rule applies to cliffhangers right from the start.
Cliffhangers, whether in a book or a favorite TV show can ruin the experience of the audience. These should be natural! Don’t end every other paragraph in a cliffhanger for the purpose of getting people to continue reading out of curiosity. The more you overdo it, the more aloof your reader is going to become.
Make the Starting Point Natural
While focusing on a moment that’s not the chronological beginning of the story can work, you will have to select an opening scene that is natural and that will help shed some light on what the reader is about to experience.
You get a single chance to make a great first impression. Don’t waste it on something pointless or completely detached from the rest of the story.
Good novels unfold naturally and they don’t aim to confuse readers. Think about the way in which events unfold in real life. They don’t start from nothing. How will you tell a friend about something that has happened to you? Where will you begin? You’ll have to accomplish the exact same thing when creating your novel’s opening scene.
Throw All Your Creativity in the Opening Paragraph
Once you decide what the first chapter is going to focus on, you will have to write the opening paragraph.
All of your mastery and creativity should be focused on this initial bunch of sentences.
Let’s take a look at one example of a first book paragraph that makes readers want to find out more and more, and more:
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This is the first paragraph of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The opening paragraph is a wonderful mix of descriptive enough sentences and bizarre explanations, mixed with a bit of humor. For decades, this opening has been making millions of readers eager to find out more.
Start with Conflict
You should open up with conflict immediately.
Conflict and change are the two things that move the plot of novels forward. They create dynamic action and evolution in the characters. If you don’t have conflict, your narrative will stagnate and the readers will lose interest.
What is the main problem that the protagonist is dealing with? Are they having problems with someone who opposes them? Are they having change of heart about a mission or something they have to accomplish? Has the protagonist experienced sudden and unexpected change in circumstances?
A great novel takes its characters and readers on a journey. This journey has a beginning and a trigger point. You will have to present both in your book opening.
Be Careful about Extensive Descriptions
Unless the settings play a very important role in the story, you should be careful about overly descriptive paragraphs (both in the opening and the rest of the book).
You are not Hemingway. People don’t like reading heavy, bulky paragraphs that describe the greenness of trees and the lushness of the grass.
When writing a book, you shouldn’t feel compelled to make the text longer through the addition of descriptions. Flowery language can accomplish very little apart from irritating the reader. Include descriptions sparingly and in places where such texts make sense. Most often, descriptions that go on and on aren’t the best choice for the book intro.
Finally, remember to stay true to yourself. Don’t create the opening you think your readers will want to read. Start your book the way your gut tells you to. If the story flows out smoothly while you’re typing, chances are that people will enjoy reading it.