The Writing Process: LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING!   Leave a comment

So far I’ve talked about getting ideas, plotting or pantsing and let’s say you’re ready to start writing. You’ve pantsed your way here or plotted until you can’t plot anymore. You type or write: Chapter 1. What’s next?

What you need is a great hook. A first line that will blow your readers/agents/editors out of the water! Most agents will read your first page but if it’s not stellar they won’t read further. What do you need for a great hook/first page?

You need stakes. No, not the pointy ones Buffy uses or the ones you eat. The first page needs to set up a couple of things. It needs to let the readers know your setting/time period. Writing a contemporary adult romance is completely different than writing a young adult science fiction. If you’re writing historical the setting might be easier but if you’re writing a science fiction novel you better mention space, aliens or spaceships (or whatever) in the first page. A horror will not read the same as a fantasy.

Okay, setting/time period, what else do you need? You need to either foreshadow the main character’s conflict or state it. Readers need to know what’s at stake for your main character right away. And don’t forget VOICE. The first page should sing (well, not really sing) with your main character’s voice. You also need some sort of inciting event. Why now? What’s happening to your main character? Avoid backstory or information dumping. Put your main character into the story and show us what’s going on.

Here’s what you need:

A great first line/hook

Mention of main character in first page

Setting/time period to set the tone of the rest of the book

Inciting event-what happened and what’s your character’s motivation?



Here’s an example from one of my books (you knew I’d pick one of mine, didn’t you?). This is the first page of my YA book, WITCH HUNTER

Chapter 1

Molly O’Claire’s foot half skimmed the gravel before the car had stopped. “Here! Stop the car!”

The Atlantic Ocean in all its glory stretched out for miles in all directions. Foam tipped waves washed up onto sun-drenched sand and washed out again to leave imprints of bubbles behind. Blue skies interlaced with cirrus clouds spoke of fair weather in the days ahead. Molly sighed with the sheer beauty of it. She kicked off her shoes and waded into the cold water.

“Isn’t it beautiful, mom?” Molly’s red hair blew wildly about her face. She held it back with one hand as she laughed.

“Come on Molly, Sarah is waiting for us.” Her mom waited impatiently by the jeep.

Molly waved to show she heard her then smiled as she spotted a starfish on the beach. She picked it up and tossed it back in the water.

“Come on, let’s go.” Molly retrieved her shoes from where she had thrown them and walked barefoot up the slight hill to the Jeep. She brushed her sandy feet off before she climbed back into the passenger side.

“That was awesome, “she said as she buckled her seat belt. “I love the ocean. I hope you get the job so we can live on the beach. Maybe I can find a part-time job too, you know babysitting or working in a store.”

“I hope I get it too. I want us to be closer to Sarah, and you know how I feel about you working when you are in school.”

“I know. School is my job right now,” she grinned at her mom. “Hey, can I practice driving?”

“No, not right now. You don’t know these roads.”

“Neither do you,” Molly said under her breath. Her mom glared at her. Molly smiled back. “We haven’t seen Aunt Sarah since she moved back to Salem two years ago,” she said as her mom pulled off the shoulder and back onto the road.

“I do miss her even though I don’t always agree with her choices.”

Now let’s see if it meets all the criteria.

Hook: We can see Molly is excited about something and we are interested to know what.

Mention of Main Character: Yes, first line mentions her.

Setting/Time Period/Tone: It appears to be contemporary and present day.

Inciting Event: It sounds like Molly’s mother is going on a job interview and Molly is staying with her Aunt Sarah in Salem. We’re not sure what’s going to happen but we’re intrigued.

Motivation of Main Character: Since we haven’t gotten the conflict yet (although we know it’s coming) we aren’t sure of her motivation yet.

Conflict/Stakes: We’re not sure but it must have something to do with the visit to Aunt Sarah.

Voice: Yes, the voice of the main character comes through.

So, did it work? Most of it. In retrospect, stating the conflict sooner might’ve been helpful.

I didn’t talk about point-of-view and that’s another post

Tell me how you feel about the beginning of your story in the comments!

Now go forth and write your killer first page!

Posted June 4, 2015 by kathleea in Uncategorized

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