Starting Your Novel
There are two very different beginnings to a novel: the first words the author writes and the first words the reader sees. They are not always one and the same. Why? Well, it’s called editing and rewrites. As a writer, we will go back and change things. So, the advice given by Mr. Mayer and every other book we have covered is…don’t waste valuable time finding the perfect line, because as you move forward it may change. The number one rule once you begin is to write.
Before I get into explaining what comes next, I need a fresh cuppa and some food to nibble. Walnuts and raisins, it is! Come on, let’s fill our cuppas and find nibbles. Did you like my oat cake yesterday? Yummers, right? I found the recipe on Pinterest. Go check it out. You will not regret it. I will get the reading rug out and once you have filled up, get your copy of The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer. We are on page 80. Let’s move on…shhh! Hey! Cheryl K., I know this is exciting but let’s move forward shall we.
Be nice. I did not have to draw this for you, but it will help you understand what we will be covering. Stop laughing.
Alright, so the vertical line on the left is your starting point. That is Page 1 of your novel. The tip of the arrow at the far right is where your book ends. The very last page.
The thick horizontal line, going straight across the page is ‘the idea.’ The initial story that started it all.
Clearly, all the other arches are your subplots. You know, like the budding love between Hermione and Ron. As you should know by now, your subplot should support your original storyline. They should also end before the original story concludes. The main story should have the final climactic moment.
The shaded box on the left, this is your backstory. There is always the ‘before’ moments, the history behind your characters.
Okay, now that my embarrassment is over, we can move on. Delete that image when you are done. LOL
Where to Begin and What to Include
The main purpose to the first chapter of the book is to get your reader to the door and want to step in. This is where you need to entice your reader in. Offer them a comfortable place to sit and a glass of (insert beverage). Lay out the MCs, problem, theme. You can do all three or one at a time but make sure your reader wants to see what happens in chapter 2 and so on.
Start paying attention to how books and movies you enjoy start. Why did the writer start the way they did? Is there a reason? Would you do it differently and why? Is it enticing, exciting, or boring? Remember this when you start writing your first chapter. Have you hooked your reader? This is not where you do the infamous info dump. We talked about that yesterday. Don’t do it.
Also, don’t keep your story a secret from your reader. If your reader can’t figure out what the story is about quickly, then why should they care? Don’t be a ‘secret keeper.’
That shaded expository box I drew for you, can be as big or small as you need for your story. If you were writing a full fantasy novel, you would need a very big expository box. Huge, even. As you can see in my masterpiece, some subplots can even begin before the start of your main story. But you must know everything that will occur within this and any other subplot before you begin. If you don’t know your background in detail you could fumble long before you hit chapter 3.
If you choose to have a subplot begin before your main story there must be a strong connection to the main story. I just read a book where this can help- a best friends book where the bff secretly dates his bff’s little sister. The secret dating is where the story began. How they hid their affair from the people in their lives. When the truth comes out…the main story took off. It was the clash between the best friends and the people they hid their love from. Sappy? Yup. Background info was sprinkled all along. How the bffs met. Why their friendship was key to who they became in life and yada, yada, yada.
One thing you need to remember. Take notes here. There is a huge difference between a memory and a flashback.
MEMORY: this is written in the character’s point of view. How they saw things. This can give a picture of why your character is doing something,
FLASHBACK: This is how things actually happened. It does not side with one character or another.
How’s it going? Do I need to backtrack on something? Let me know or pick up a copy of the book. Just sayin’
Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.
I’m always looking for new friends!
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