I don’t do beginnings well. I’ve never had a novel published, but I think my novels, in general, are pretty interesting.
It’s the beginnings that are boring. I’ve read all kinds of advice on how to start novels. I’ve read more novels than I can count, paying careful attention to the beginning. And still, I can’t seem to get it right. I’ve just received the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about how to start a novel.
Throw out the first chapter.
In my novel, the first chapter explains some vital backstory and introduces the characters, but I realize now that it’s my lazy way of putting those things in the story, and it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little effort, I can weave those elements into the story, making them more interesting, but also starting the story with the action, instead of the backstory so boring even I don’t want to read it.
I’ve been cutting and cutting that first chapter to just the essential elements. I’ve edited it so many times I can probably recite it by heart. Recently, I had an agent request chapters, and I was so excited. My heart pounded and I really hoped this would be it. She didn’t accept it, saying the story wasn’t as interesting as she’d hoped.
And I knew it was that boring first chapter. I knew I needed to start with action, but I didn’t know how.
Now I do. I need to throw out the first chapter. And let the story start at the beginning.