False starts

Posted: October 27, 2009 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

I am not going to bang on about this, but it needs to be said.

Do not start your story in the wrong place.

Do not start with background, preamble, and densely-packed description.

Do not do as I did, and tell your publisher (who quite likes your opening chapter) that ‘It gets really good in Chapter Two’ (because eventually one of you will realise that perhaps that’s where your story should have started).

Do not ever type the words The End until you have perfected the beginning.

So please, go back and focus on that first sentence, that irresistable invitation to the reader, that threshold that people must cross to enter your world.  Then write the words that will draw them in like a breath, swallow them whole and make them yours for the duration.

Remember this: readers may forgive a bad ending, but no-one forgives a bad beginning.

That is all.

  1. Hi Chris,
    Beautifully written Blog as usual. Thanks for reminding us how important the Beginning and first Sentence is.
    Good Luck with your writing… Cheers,Karen:))

  2. Lynn Priestley says:

    Message received, loud and clear. I can still hear that line you quoted to me yesterday – that great first sentence from Mo Johnson’s book, ‘Boofheads’.

    I sometimes think the first sentence should be the strongest link to the rest of the tale. If it is strong enough, it will pull the reader straight into the story and promise them a great journey. A great reminder, Chris. Thanks!

  3. chrisbongers says:

    “Change tiptoed into our lives with her eyes down, like a shy chick coming late to class.”
    Mo nailed it in one – setting, voice, theme – with one cleverly constructed opening sentence.
    I kept reading, Lynn. Wouldn’t you?

  4. Yes, absolutely agree. I’m going back to my stories to assess their beginnings. BTW is that a preamble you began your blog with? Very clever/ironic.

  5. chrisbongers says:

    You liked that, did you Steve? One of those little things we do to amuse ourselves that makes writing so much fun. 🙂

  6. joannagaudry says:

    Yeah, well I’ve been told from Kim (Wilkins) that the beginning of my first draft first novel actually start where I thought my middle began. Lol. Joanna :))

  7. Trudie Trewin says:

    Aah the dreaded first sentence – is there any sentence in a manuscript that gets changed as many times as the first? Certainly not for me, anyway.

  8. Yeah, so true, Chris.
    And how come even if we know it we still don’t do it? Maybe it’s to get it out of our system first, before the real story begins. And sometimes it takes a fresh eye to recognise that little pitfall.
    Enjoy reading your blogs.
    See you soon.
    S 🙂

  9. chrisbongers says:

    Sheryl, I think too many people stop writing before they do the final rewrite. They have gone to so much trouble to dig out the nugget, that they put the shovel away. The nugget becomes a dust collector on the mantlepiece, when it could have been further processed into real gold in the marketplace.
    Looking forward to catching up when you get home. 🙂

  10. chrisbongers says:

    I found this after I posted and Kathleen says it all better than I have at http://kathleennoud.blogspot.com/2009/10/hooked-by-first-paragraph.html

  11. Ah, so true, Chris. Though first lines and beginnings are my absolute favorite parts of the novel.

  12. Thanks Chris, didn’t realise you had linked me. I’ve been editing my beginning over the past week so I know the pain.

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