Most agents and publishers say that the biggest mistake that authors make is starting their story too early. Rejection letters are sent based on those first few lines in the story. The reality is that if you can’t catch a reader’s attention within the first few paragraphs, there’s a good chance that they won’t make it any further. Yet as writers, the meat of our story is in the middle and end; so how can we begin our story so that our readers make it that far?
Unfortunately, finding the perfect place to start is easier said than done. As we start writing our stories, we’re still exploring our characters and the world that they live in. Here are some tips on how to begin your story:
- Have an idea of what the plot of the story is and where you want it to go. If your plot is still in your head, then write it down. This plot doesn’t have to be formatted in any particular way; perhaps you’d prefer to write it in paragraph form, or maybe you’d prefer to write chapter headlines. Either way, some authors like outlines, while others loathe them. I’m personally somewhere in the middle; what I usually do is I write an outline for the next three or four chapters that I keep at the end of my document. As I write, I add to this outline and remove parts that I’ve already written. To see how well that worked, check out my book!
- One way to get inspiration is to go somewhere quiet and imagine five or six people that would benefit from your book. In the marketing world, we call these buyer profiles; but they’re helpful for getting inspiration as well. Think about what these five or six people need (and hopefully, one of them is you!). Then structure your book around meeting those needs.
- Start writing – even if it’s cliche (e.g., the dream sequence, waking up in the morning, flashback, etc). If it’s well-written, then it won’t matter if it’s been done a hundred times. If it isn’t, then it’ll be easy to edit and cut. The goal here is to keep writing until you get to a point where the story begins. Often times, your beta readers or editors will provide a better judgment on what the best hook is.
- If that doesn’t work, then start in the middle of your book. If there are specific scenes that demand your attention, start with those. Once you’ve finished writing those scenes, find a way to join them together.
Need a way to capture ideas? Get Evernote Premium free for one month by clicking here.
I love it because all my notes sync in one place, so it’s helpful if I capture an idea when I’m on the go. It’s also easy to search for my notes as well. You can also get a Chrome extension, so you can see your notes in your browser. There are times when I’m doing research for a book, and I’ll realize that I’ve already made a note of that same thing because Evernote will pop up next to my Google search results.
If you’re still unsure of where to start, you can also take advantage of The Author’s Hand’s mentorship program here.