Recently it has come to my attention, more often than not, that new writers do the same thing when beginning their first manuscript. They tend to fill the first chapter with back story, or information that doesn't pertain to the story and move it along.
I believe it's normal to want to tell the reader everything they can squeeze in about their main character, but unnecessary for the story. The reader will learn more and more about the protagonist as the story moves along.
There are do's and don'ts when beginning your novel so I thought I would touch on them and hopefully give you a more understanding of how to begin your book.
When I first wrote Fable I wanted a build-up to what was happening to Stevie. I didn't want to jump right into her meeting Colton and finding out she was a Djen. I like a build-up, it's just I didn't realize how slow the book was moving.
My problem wasn't so much a lot of back story or information dump, but too much character building within the first few chapters. My writing coach told me if I plan on my book to be in the YA genre it needed to move along much quicker. So Toni and I moved up the attack scene on Jan, (Stevie's mother) from the original chapter 6 to chapter 2 and we gave the story a much more exciting chapter 1 with Stevie seeing Colton for the first time.
It meant for a lot of rewrite and lengthened the time to finalize the novel. But that's okay, I learned how "not" to start a novel.
First the whole basis of a story is what's happening to the protagonist and what the antagonist is doing to dampen the main character's progress. The main character should be struggling and suffering through the issue and just when you think there is a breakthrough, the antagonist throws another wrench in the works. Finally, the ending is, the protagonist gets through the problems.
Story telling is starting with an inciting incident. The initial problem(s), basically the event or decision that begins the story and pushes the main character along to take action in the story.
It's when the main character's nice cozy, just going along life is now rocked and pushes them in a completely different direction that becomes life changing. In the end, the character has a new outlook or the issue has changed their world completely. Maybe they are a different person now.
So where to begin your story? At the onslaught of the inciting incident. We want to drop our characters right in the middle of the issue. Any back story can be woven into the scenes and only what is important enough to continue moving forward.
The reader isn't very forgiving of info dump or back story in the beginning. They don't want to be stopped right in their tracks to be filled with a lot of information that doesn't pertain. You don't want to bombard them with a lot of characters to keep track of or setting description.
With today's availability for a potential buyer to read your first 10% of your book, the first few pages, or even your first paragraph will make all the difference in the decision as to whether or not they want to buy. If we don't grip the reader from the very beginning, you might lose them for good.
Have you ever read the beginning of a book and put it down because of too much description or lack of direction as to how the story will be? Or, if you are a writer, are you having a hard time knowing where to start your manuscript?
Leave me a comment and let me know your experiences.
Until next Friday, I hope you have a great weekend.