Your novel has to go through a certain test before a reader buys the book. The summary on the back cover isn’t enough anymore.
After getting past the cover and title (because let’s face it; we all judge books by their covers when we know we shouldn’t), readers thumb through the pages. Some people read the first couple of lines.
Without even realizing it, they’re checking for the writing style and the type of characters they’ll have to deal with. Is there an info-dump at the beginning? Is the information too vague?
Beginnings are fragile and if you don’t get it just right, it might be what stops a reader from buying your book.
When beginning your novel…
Give us an idea about the plot. Some beginnings can be slow and the plot takes some time to warm up–which is fine–but you don’t readers to be on chapter three and still have no idea what the point of the novel is.
Make sure you introduce a likable protagonist. Give us some background on him or her, but not too much. You can’t give away everything before the novel truly gets started.
Speaking of characters, introduce secondary ones gradually. Let us wonder why those characters are there, why they’re significant in the book.
Sometimes all it takes is one line.
The first line of a novel is the beginning before the beginning. All it takes is that one first sentence to hook the reader in and they continue on.
There are many different kinds of first sentences to help give your beginning a bit of a boost in the right direction.
“What are you doing?” Andrew asked his sister holding open the door, his eyes wide in horror at the sight.
The reader wants to read on because they want to know what Andrew saw. Why did it shock him so much? Also, they wonder what his sister is like if she’s causing her brother to react in such a way. Is this something she does often? So many possibilities open up.
Kyle’s car side-swiped a fence with a piercing screech. It slowed him down, but he was able get going once more as he pushed harder on the gas pedal. He glanced in his rear-view mirror with worried eyes, sweat glistening on his forehead. They were gaining on him.
Start off with conflict right away. We don’t know why Kyle is running, why he’s being chased, or who is chasing him. It’s one of those things that we just have to absolutely know the answer, so we naturally keep reading.
He looked as though he was in his mid-twenties. He brushed his sleek black hair out of his face revealing his dark green eyes. Then he bent down and lifted the crate, his arm muscles pulsing from the weight.
Introduce a character. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the main character. From this narration we can assume the protagonist may be admiring the man from afar. The readers want to know more about the man and the narrator. Also, why is the narrator watching the man lift crates? It can’t be that interesting, can it? Then again, his muscles were flexing…
And that’s why beginnings are important.
There are so many other ways to start a story, of course.
Make your reader crave more with each sentence, paragraph, chapter. Before they know it, it’ll be 2 in the morning. They’ll close the book and say, “I want more!”