Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Second Month: Getting Started

So you have an idea. It's been in the back of your brain forever! You've planned out all the characters, the plot, the conflict until it's practically real (more on this later). You're ready; you're ready to start writing your novel. So open up a blank word doc and prepare the world for your genius. This is a monumental occasion for readers everywhere. 

Then... nothing. Zip. Nada. You have no ideas whatsoever. Nothing comes out. It sucks right?

Or, even worse, it ends up like this:
Awful, right? I won't tell you where I found it, but needless to say, it needs some work. The answer to the question is no, it turns the readers off.

And more importantly, it turns agents and publishers off. If the first page of your novel is bad, they're no going to read the rest, even IF the rest is better than Suzanne Collins and JK Rowling combined. This makes the first page of your novel the MOST IMPORTANT page. So it has to be the best.

We'll discuss using the bad example above (okay, I'll tell you where I got it; I made it up for this. But I ALMOST used a passage like this a couple of years ago.)

Rule number one: It has to be exciting

Most newbie writers love to write long descriptions without any action. Instead of writing about a spy getting assigned to something, then going to lunch, then figuring out there's a bomb, then going to save people from the bomb, drop us right in the middle of the spy defusing the bomb. It's high-stress, intense and page turning.

Make us want to keep reading, there's a time and place for semi-long descriptions, but it's not now.

Okay, so maybe not all of us have action packed, spy movies. But we can still stuff interesting, which brings us to rule number two.

Rule number two: Include a conflict

There has to be a problem, or something that makes a situation difficult. Maybe your character isn't a bomb defusing spy, but s/he still can be in a high stress situation. Maybe s/he is going to move. Maybe s/he doesn't want to move.

It doesn't have to be the main conflict in the end. It doesn't even have to effect the rest of the story. As long as you have a conflict it works.

Rule number three: Use your best grammar and spelling

This is an obvious.

And the last rule, Rule number four: Use the same voice for the first part as you will in the rest of the novel.

This one is just a must. You can't switch voices back and forth unless you're switching characters. Period. And you can't switch narrators unless you start a new chapter. This keeps it from being confusing.

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