Starting a Story

The start is your first step; you want a good first impression and a good foundation. It's also where the reader is most likely to ask, "Should I keep reading?" So the start is the most valuable piece of real estate in your book, and it deserves your full attention and care.

The start is also a complicated battlefield of competing interests and goals. There's:

  • a real limit to how interesting a start can be,
  • potential problems with how a start is made interesting,
  • unavoidable bootstrapping problems, and
  • serious choices about where to start.

So starts might seem easy to write – the author just starts! – but in fact there's a lot to consider. And worry about. Authors pay more attention to the start than any other part of a book.

I want you to understand book starts, both as an author and a reader. I will discuss starting with action, goofy starts, the role of mystery, where to start in the timeline, the precipitating event, and more general issues.

And, we will tour some of the basic principles of good writing.

A preliminary issue is writing the start for your first draft, when there's nothing to your book yet except ideas.

To Start the Main Discussion:

If you haven't written your first draft:

If you are a reader

If you are a reader