Saturday, 28 November 2009

A damn good opening - How-to

At a bookstore, I'm always on the lookout for new authors, especially those who write series. Like many buyers, I walk in and peruse the section (mystery mainly) for un-read books. I skim the back and then read the first few paragraphs of the prologue or chapter one. If I don't like what I read, I put the book back and move on.

This is common. I doubt I'm the only one who does this. Hence, the importance of 1) a great opening and 2) a great back cover.

Really, if you don't have a great opening, it won't get past the editors or the agents or the publishers, never mind the readers.

So what can an author do to increase his chances in this dog-eat-dog publishing world?

To sum up, you want the reader to ask one question: What happens next? Damn it, tell me already!

1) Begin your story at an important moment in time. Many mystery writers begin with the murder.
2) Cut that crap out! That means, no background. No un-needed words. No long-winded descriptions of anything. Period.
3) Dramatic tension. Make sure that your chapter is enthused with dramatic tension. This could be the promise of conflict, or by hinting at a mystery, or emotional turbulence.

Keep the first chapter short. If you look down at your word count and it says 1000 and you're 1/4 or 1/2 way through, it's too long in my opinion. Make sure it has enough conflict in as few words as possible.


Anonymous said...

*Keep the first chapter short.*

How short?