Many writers struggle with their opening scenes, whether it’s for a novel, short story or screenplay. For the record, I’m currently on the fifth version of the opening for my own novel, The Destiny Matrix. I arrived at this version with the help of an agent critique, advice from an awesome critique partner, and from reading several books about the craft of writing. Hopefully, I got it right this time.
There are three specific books I’d like to recommend for anyone struggling to get their story off to a good start. I’m listing them in the same order that I read them.
Have you ever wondered how agents and editors can reject writing based on a small writing sample – sometimes just from one page? Agent Noah Lukeman reveals the secret in The First Five Pages. Lukeman focuses more on word choice and grammar than on plot devices, so this is a handy guide to use in polishing your novel in general, and specifically your opening pages that are likely to go out with query letters.
I mentioned Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages in a prior blog post. While it also contains a few pointers on word choice and grammar, most of the book details what the beginning of your novel needs to accomplish, and how to accomplish them.
Just last weekend, I finished Hooked by Les Edgerton. Subtitled write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, I felt that this book closed the loop on what I needed to learn to shape up my own opening. In the first few chapters I got tangled in writing terminology and details and nearly stopped reading. Luckily, I kept going. From chapter 4 on there was a ton of useful information. That section of the book includes dozens of openings from novels and short stories, along with the author’s analysis of each opening and what makes it work. I found an opening that fit well with what I wanted to do with my novel’s opening and went from there.
If you’re a writer having trouble figuring out how to get your story started or how to polish your opening with an eye to avoiding rejection, I hope these books help. If you have suggestions on any other books on openings, please feel free to leave a comment.