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How to start the novel... : FAQs • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How to start the novel...

Frequently asked questions. Go HERE and read the first thread.
ProfessionallyMade
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How to start the novel...

Postby ProfessionallyMade » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:42 am

I am trying to write a novel. Is it okay to start your novel with another character/scene before the MC is introduced? (It's not a long scene). What are some ways one can open a 1 chapter without boring their readers? any suggestions? :shock: :D thanks

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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby MookyMcD » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:12 am

Relax in the knowledge that you will almost certainly be deleting or changing what you started with, anyway, and just get writing. Once you have a completed draft, you may be looking at that beginning in an entirely different light. The most common comment I've seen from agents is that most writers start their novels two or three chapters too soon, meaning everything that really matters before the s*** hits the fan in Chapter 3 or 4 could usually be done in a paragraph at the beginning of that chapter. But it's still a very worthwhile writing exercise, getting to know your characters and their situations, setting the whole thing up in your mind before the story really starts.

So my biggest piece of advice is you start the novel by starting the novel. Worry about the particulars of your start after you've written the end of the novel.

What you're asking about specifically has been done, but I'm personally not a huge fan. I think readers imprint on characters like baby ducks imprint on their mama, and they're not happy to find out that the person they expected to be following around for the entire book is not actually the person they're going to be following around for the rest of the book.

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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:33 am

There's no real way to answer this. It fine, if it works. It's a terrible idea, if it doesn't work. You probably won't know until you finish the novel.

The rule of thumb is to start as late in the story as possible, but the good news is that if you start too early, or start with the wrong character, or even start with lousy writing, you can almost certainly throw the opening away after the first draft is finished.

In a real sense, this is the test. Sit down and write the first five chapters. Read back through them, and check to see if chapter two or three could be a good starting point. If one of them is, you probably don't need chapter one, or that opening scene.

But, yeah, starting that way is fine. Don't worry about it. Just start writing, and keep writing.

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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby TerryRodgers » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:58 am

In case you do not know what Mooky and James means by starting the novel too soon, it means you write a chapter or chapters where there is no story other than world building or back story or a prologue that is 20 pages too long. Basically, information that immediately stalls the novel.

But I want to add that there is an opposite to this in where the writer starts the novel too late, meaning you start the novel before the reader is invested in the novel.

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DrG2
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby DrG2 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:30 pm


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pls
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby pls » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:10 pm

IMHO, a prologue longer than a half-page gets in the way of the story - unless it is actually PART of the story action.
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:30 am


James A. Ritchie
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:31 am


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LadyAnne
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby LadyAnne » Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:31 am

Well, I started my story the morning they find the body, so my problem isn't having too much at the beginning. I'm actually a little afraid that I may have too little. It is crucial to the story that you get into the atmosphere or you won't understand the main character. I am trying to build the atmosphere throughout the story, but that is after the initial "fall". I will be interested to get someone else's opinion on it to see how it works for them.

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mammamaia
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Re: How to start the novel...

Postby mammamaia » Sat Apr 05, 2014 1:45 pm

take any dozen successfully published novels you have on your shelf [or from the library] and study how each one begins... then pick the 3 different ways you liked best and start yours in each of those ways [using your own wording, of course]... one of them will feel 'right' and you'll have the start of your first chapter!
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