Monday, January 16, 2012

Where Do You Begin?

My friend and I are co-authoring a book that we FINALLY have a name for - yay!!

Okay, so we are co-authoring a YA action/thriller/romance entitled Forbidden Territory.

It is a great story about two best friends who are caught in the rugged New Zealand bush with their two major crushes, Eli & Tom. What was supposed to be a fun geo-caching trip goes bad and the four are soon lost and on the run from some pretty pissed off drug dealers.

I can't wait to get it out there later this year.

We are working on the final edits of the story next weekend and then we'll send it out to a new lot of beta readers for round two.

One thing we have found really difficult though, is the beginning... and it made me wonder if other authors have this same issue.

Starting a story can be really hard! You want something that is going to entice the reader to keep going, give the reader an instant connection with the main characters and also provide enough description and backstory that the reader is not totally lost. You also want tension.

Finding a balance of all these elements is a challenge that we have battled with for months. I think we are up to our tenth re-write of the beginning! We keep on scratching what we have and starting again. Now - I guess you could argue, that if you're struggling that much, you should just drop the beginning and start in from where the story works, but that's not always the best decision.

As a reader, I sometimes like to be eased into a story. I like to get to know the main characters before having them thrust into some terrible predicament. Other times, I want the tension right off the bat. It's fun to be thrown into an action scene then have to work your way out of it, finding out tid-bits along the way.

So which is better?
It all depends on the type of story, and the mood and tone you want to convey. One style can not work for every story. Like parenting, there is simply no formula and that makes things difficult.

I guess the reason we stress and struggle over this so much is because Chapter One can make or break you. The first PAGE can make or break you! If people don't like what they've read after a few paragraphs, they might never give the book a shot.

It makes you realize how vitally important the beginning of a story is.

While I have been wrestling with this, I've stumbled upon a couple of helpful sites.
One is examples of opening lines that have worked well: 12 Ways to Start a Novel.
The other is from Writers Digest with ten great tips on how to make the beginning of a story work: Start Your Story Better.

I hope these are helpful to anyone else out there that struggles like I do. Feel free to add any other sites or helpful books you've discovered in the comments section :)

But let's end with a few questions (because I just love blog posts that do!)...

How important do you think the beginning of a story is?
If you're a writer, do you have any solid methods to get your beginnings right?
If you're a reader, what types of beginnings grab you?


  1. I feel your pain. I always have to go back and work on beginnings again and again. I hope it goes well!

  2. I guess reworking is what makes a story brilliant :)

  3. Ugh...the beginning. I have rewritten the first page of my current MS so many times it's ridiculous. I think it helps to write it move on then go back to it. What's funny is I started a new MS recently and the first page just came to me and it's perfect. One try. Crazy!

  4. I love it when the beginning just comes off perfectly. Sometimes it does happen. I find more often than not it is really hard though.

  5. For me as a reader, Ilike to begin with some emotion that tugs at you in any way. I also like some adventure that starts off with a near miss!

  6. No methods here, unfortunately.

    As a reader, it depends on how the beginning is written; I don't really have a preference if it's an action scene/dialogue/etc. so long as there aren't info dumps and something makes me care about what's happening.

  7. Kelly - I agree. Emotion is a key factor for drawing me in as well. I want to be able to connect with a character right from the start.

    Golden Eagle - info dumps are not my cup of tea either. I like to find out things as the action goes along.

  8. Hey! I received a blog award and passed one on to you! :)