You just decided to start a book. You just finished a memorable one and now you’re looking for the next one worth reading. Something that will touch your heart, mind and maybe even your soul. It doesn’t matter if you prefer mysteries, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, sci fi, fantasy etc. Your requirement is it has to grab your attention from the very beginning somehow…and ultimately the ending has to leave you breathless. Now, that being said, remember all of that when you begin the journey of writing your own novel.
Remember all your favorite books. The very first sentence captured you…and if not the first sentence at the very least the first paragraph took you captive in some way. For example in my current work in progress (Nobody’s Angels) I start off with the following line:
No one saw. They couldn’t. But if they could have seen, they would have always, always said yes. But no–no one saw.
Make your readers ask themselves questions that they must find answers for. Who didn’t see? What didn’t they see? What would they have said yes to? And finally, why didn’t they see? This is not a rule that should be followed only at the beginning of the book. Each chapter/section should start with something to keep hooking the readers, and also give a hint of a resolution. Each chapter/section should end with some type of suspenseful cliff (a bang) that forces your reader to keep going even if they know they have to get up at five o’clock in the morning for work, something that pushes them to read even though they know they should get back to work (yes your book has the potential to get someone in trouble and no I am not condoning being late for work…very tempted to insert a smiley here).
Starting you book with a bang would include making your characters have exactly that CHARACTER. Give them an obstacle then make that obstacle insurmountable, but give them skills that could potentially help them…then make the situation a hundred times worse. Write each word with a purpose, because in fiction everything has to ultimately make sense (even when you’re creating a magical world), it all has to tie in somehow.
There are plenty of Indie authors out there who have the potential to make a great story, yet the one thing I have seen over and over is a bland beginning and things that don’t add up–or things that are thrown into the story for no reason at all. Your readers are smart people so make them think: why did she just describe in such detail that hot pink dress that the elderly woman was wearing? How does that tie in? Don’t bore your readers with details that have no purpose at all. For example, when I was reading the extremely long book Gone With the Wind, I noticed it had a LOT of description, yet each description made you keep wanting to read because it tied in, it had a purpose. The bombs exploding in Atlanta had a purpose.
Also, make sure you keep the action moving along but also let the reader know the goal and mission of the story in the first few chapters. Don’t be scatterbrained (this is one of my struggles as well, there are so many ideas!!).
Often I have received one question from members of a writing community that I am part of (wattpad), and that is: How do you get so many comments, votes, readers etc.? My answer is this, give them something worth reading. Engage your audience because they want to be part of your epic story. Remember what you like as an avid reader…then incorporate that into your story. Just like in a movie bring in the guns, begin your chapter with a chase towards a goal (not necessarily a literal chase), and end your chapter with a resounding BANG! (Now get to writing!)