Apr 292015
 
weakest-link--Hernan-Pinera

Image by Hernán Piñera

No matter how crucial a scene may be to your plot, if it makes you go “ick”, don’t lead with it.

It seems obvious to me after it was pointed out, but at the time of writing and revising a particular story, it made sense to start at the “beginning”, even though I always found myself thinking and wanting to tell people, “Just wait until you get to Chapter Two. Chapter One’s not really how the story’s going to continue; it’s just establishing the start of the protagonist’s character arc.” Yeah. Lesson learnt.

Start with the first of your good bits (we’ll call this the “Just Wait Until... Point” or JWUP). These days of instant gratification and high-speed everything, an author has much less time than ever before to hook a reader. That doesn’t mean you should start in media res without orienting the reader first. The difference nowadays is that your  orientation (a view of the characters’ “normal” before everything changes) can and should only be a few paragraphs at the most. The inciting incident, which needs to be compelling, must occur in the first page or two, or you risk being put down.

There’s an easy (“easy”) fix way to judge this for yourself: if your Amazon Look Inside sample breaks before it gets to the JWUP, cut your beginning until the break happens immediately after the JWUP.

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