Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The first 10 pages are what readers see when they click “Look Inside” on Amazon.

The first ten pages of your novel are what busy readers see when they click “Look Inside” on Amazon.

Potential readers will decide whether to buy your book after reading all or some of those first ten pages. However, readers may not even read those first ten pages if the first page isn't great. If your first few pages show writing ability and you grab readers with a vivid story right away, readers may get excited enough to buy your book.

Novelist Lawrence Block says, “Throw away your first chapter.” Most first novels waste time extensively describing the scene or bringing in the protagonist’s background before getting around to making some-thing happen. By urging us to toss the first chapter, Block was suggesting we start with something happening. 

Telling all about the characters in the opening pages is not necessary.
Avoid giving the description, history and laying all the groundwork that early in the book. Too much information makes life difficult for readers who are trying to grasp what your story is about and how the plot elements and the characters fit together.

At the beginning of a book, readers tend to memorize nearly everything they read, thinking it might be important to follow the story. Whatever you lend importance to should be essential. That’s why flashbacks shouldn’t be in a first chapter and why there should be more dialogue than a narrative summary.

Description in the first chapter should be subtle and sparse. Readers want things to start. If you must, drag in background and description in Chapter Two after your readers have been successfully hooked by the story.

Important first line.
A novel is made up of many thousands of sentences, but none as important as the opening line. The first line should tell readers what to expect in terms of language, plot, and character. It should be mysterious and compelling, either poetic or shockingly abrupt.

If potential readers read the opening line, they should want to keep reading. The beginning defines but does not completely explain your protagonist. The question, "What does the protagonist want?” means you have begun the plot. Work to keep the opening of your novel clear and simple, so readers will be hooked. At the start of your novel, you should bring readers into the book and attract their attention.

Dialogue is great for this. Description is not.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews