Begin at the Beginning


Begin at the Beginning

Where to begin your novel, that is the question?

When you write the first draft, you should jump in and get started. But when you revise your novel, you have a better chance of making the right choice.

  • Connect the beginning and the end.
    Make sure the beginning sets up the ending. If you solve the problem of a character wants to make new friends, then the ending needs to reflect the resolution of that problem. If they don’t match up, you can decide if you want to change the ending or the beginning; but they must match up.
  • Set the tone. Make sure the tone–the attitude displayed by the choice of vocabulary, sentence structure, genre, etc.–sets up the rest of the story.
  • Consider beginning much later (or much earlier). Often, it takes writers a while to get started in a story. Open your mss to page 25. Consider starting your story near here. Would you really miss anything from the first 25 pages?
    Open to page 50. Would this be an even better place to start?
    On the other, I always have to expand my stories, which means I usually need to start earlier and include a chapter of introduction of the characters and what is at stake.

Which kind of writer are you? Do you tend to start too early or too late?

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  • Sarah
    September 18, 2007

    I started too late in my first novel. I added a few pages at the beginning with my last revision; the goal is to ground the reader so they can see how much the MC changes.

    In my WIP I think I started at the beginning. I am in the exploratory draft stage (similar writing style to Janni) so I might discover that what I think is the beginning is not the beginning.

  • darcy
    September 21, 2007

    Interesting that you start too late in one, but just right in another. I almost always start too late and must add to the beginning.


  • Kelly R. Martin
    June 10, 2010

    I prefer to start at the point the life of the protagonist becomes interesting to someone other than themselves and their associates. It must be interesting for the reader. The protagonist can spend some time dwelling on what got them to that point in their lives, as the story progresses, but jumping into a key event in the first chapter is critical I believe.