Write a Novel in 3 months (week 3) – the beginning

What I’m watching: Cold Case
Playing on the iPod right now: September by Daughtry

Okay, so now I’m really itching to get started and write some actual scenes.  And pretty much every time I sit down to write a new story, I like to start at chapter 1.  The opening scene is where you really set the tone and pace for the rest of the novel, where you introduce the character/s, their GMC and setting.  It’s also where you need to hook the reader, to keep them turning the pages until The End.

When I first began writing, I didn’t actually start at the  most effective point in the story (apparently this is a common affliction for many writers!).   So let’s look at the characteristics of opening scenes.

Opening scenes should:

  • be immediate – start with a point of change, a problem, task or obstacle that the character must address
  • engage the reader – paragraphs of description, or introspection or internal dialogue do not make for a gripping beginning, nor do conversations that go nowhere.  As for your entire story, there must be a point to your scenes.  If not, cut it out.
  • introduce at least one major character – along with their goal and why they can’t have it.
  • end on a hook – because the key to good fiction is keeping the reader reading

That’s not to say that you have to start with a car chase, a big bang, a villain threatening the hero.  All my books so far have started with introspection 😀 But it’s been important introspection, which lets the reader know what’s happening and moves the story forward.  I learned the hard way when my Senior Editor told me to cut 18 pages from the start of my Diamonds Down Under book!

Do you have an opening scene you’d like to share or discuss?  Something you’re not sure about?  I’ll go first if you like – my wip starts with the heroine at home on the phone to her sister, lamenting that she’s just kissed her boss.  We discover she then quits (via email) and said gorgeous boss turns up to ask what she thinks she’s doing, quitting and leaving him without the best PA he’s ever had.  This is one continuous scene in her VP, most of it dialogue.  There there was a bit of introspection where she thinks about the stupid mistakes she’s done in the past, and of course, dialogue tags and internal dialogue to show her to be a sympathetic character who’s attracted to a yummy, single guy :::sigh – Eddie Cahill!:::: It was heaps of fun to write, too, BTW!


6 comments on “Write a Novel in 3 months (week 3) – the beginning

  1. Hi Paula,
    Loving this blog. Quick question. I’m still back at document mapping 🙂 Read the article on your website (excellent) but I’m using a mac and I just can’t find document mapping, not even in the help menu. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Louise! In Mac, you have to have either Word for Mac or the Office Suite. In your button menu along the top there should be button for “Navigation”. Click on that and your extra pane should appear on the left hand side. If the little drop down menu in that pane says ‘thumbnail’, just click on the down arrow and choose “document map”.

  3. Paula, I’ve got your Boardrooms and a Billionaire Heir open in front of me, and I remember this stood out to me when I read it the first time. Your opening scene is in your hero’s VP and we don’t see the heroine for about 13 pages. Is this unusual? I thought cata normally had H/h on the same page from as close to Page 1 as possible.

  4. Ahh, yes. That book was pretty much about the hero, which was a little unusual for a Desire. The hero-centric focus was because of the continuity, and mine being all about the missing heir, which was why I had that big lead-in time. Desire guidelines do state the focus should be the heroine’s journey but I find I’m more of a 50/50 gal. As for the other lines, it really does depend… sometimes you can get away with not having one character in a scene if the other character is thinking about them. Does this help any?

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