Today, we’re talking about the beginning of your novel, and I’m giving you seven tips for the first 5 pages of your novel. If you're a regular reader or writer, you might know that Amazon has a feature of ''look inside'' that usually comes a few days after the book is published. Why? Of course, a reader should be given a sample before he/she decides to have the book. That's what Amazon does.
That's why the first five-to-ten pages of your novel should be up to the mark. So that reader is teased to know more about the story. Tip: Show us some emotions if you're writing fiction. If you have a suggestion for an article, just let me know in the comments. Even if I don't respond, I do read every comment and I add those suggestions to my article list. Let’s jump in.
1. A hook.
This is probably something you’ve already heard, but don’t let that keep you from hearing the rest of my tips, I promise they’re more original than this one. Your novel should start with something interesting enough to convince your reader to keep reading.
If someone is going to bail out of a book, it’s likely going to be in the very beginning, when they’re not connected to the story emotionally, or in the middle when things can get a little dry. A lot of times, your hook is the promise of adventure or drama. In Ready Player One, we’re pulled in by the promise of adventure that is Anorak’s Invitation. We want to know what’s so special about this 5-minute video that it would become “the most scrutinized piece of film in history.”
In The Book Thief, we’re pulled in by the unique way the story is told with pauses with what seems like announcements and the huge fact that this book is narrated by Death. Brainstorm and find something interesting, something unique, some emotional conflict, and hook your reader.
2. Within reason.
Don't get crazy. Main character. This sounds obvious, but *most* of the time, your novel should start with your main character. Why? It’s who the reader is going to immediately connect to... hopefully.
Have you watched the movie 'Divergent' to be honest I like the graphics of the movie but sadly the movie starts with tons of info-dumps and the main character is not in the picture. That really sucks!
Having a multi-POV novel means we’ll be hopping into different heads, but first introduce your reader to the MAIN character--the one whose story has the most impact, the one closest to the center of the plot, with the most change to make.
For all novels, not just multi-POV, hint at the main flaw your character is going to overcome by the end of the novel. Establish who your character is, and show how they react to situations, how they think their way out of a problem, and how they view the world.
I am saying it again give your reader something to empathize with, root for, or laugh at with your main character.
3. Current life.
You should also show your character’s current life which includes the setting. This really should be something that shows the stark contrast of where your novel is going to end.
Your character is going through a lot of change in your story, and showing that visually by taking us through their life before the inciting incident helps the reader see how far that character went by the end.
We need a baseline. A point to jump from. So don’t overlook the necessity of showing us where your character comes from. Their current life (living situation, job, and schooling) is another great place to tie in some conflict and hint at what’s to come.
Your conflict in the first 5 pages doesn’t have to be huge. If you’re starting your novel in media res or the middle of the action, this is a given, and will be easy to squeeze in the conflict in those first 5 pages. But if you’re not jumping into the plot that quickly, at least show us some minor conflict early on that helps show us something about your character.
Your main character failing a test (my Trilogy The Incubus Prophecy). Struggling to find food (The Hunger Games). Being stranded on Mars and no one knows you’re alive (The Martian). Enticing the reader with a bit of conflict can immediately make your reader empathize with your main character as you show how they react to that conflict.
Readers don’t want to read about 300 pages of everything going right for your character. We want to see how someone comes out stronger after struggling and promising your reader there’ll be plenty of struggle from the first page is a great way to hook them.
5. A great opening line.
This is something I wish I had done better in my novel, but we live and learn. One great line can save an otherwise slow first few pages.
The Princess Bride starts with “This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” This opening line could also be in the title of a chapter or part as in Gone Girl: I think the opening line is ''Boy Loses Girl.'' If you have the chance to hook the reader from the first few words, why wouldn’t you do it? The more hooks you put in your first few pages, the better.
Your first chapter should set the tone and mood of your entire novel. If your novel starts out reading like a contemporary but ends up being a horror book, you might be doing something wrong. It’s great if you can use the first few pages to give the reader some hints as to where the story is going. If it’s a romance, hint at the character’s love life or lack thereof.
If it’s a fantasy, show the reader some cool or quirky aspects of life in your fantasy world. Set the tone for the rest of the novel so your readers won’t be surprised when what they thought was science fiction ends up being a historical romance.
Setting the tone at the beginning is an undercurrent to where you’ll be taking the reader. You may not be able to see it from the surface, with all the flashy hooks and characters, but the tone is a device your reader should be able to rely on for its consistency.
7. DON’T have any typos or grammatical errors.
This goes for your entire novel, but it’s especially important in the first five pages. If a reader is interested enough in your novel’s cover and synopsis to pick it up and read it, don’t scare them away with a typo.
If a reader is browsing in a bookstore and picks your book up, they may test out the first chunk to see if they enjoy it. If they’re looking online on Amazon, they may take advantage of the “Look inside” feature and start reading. Don’t let ANY errors pull your reader out of the story this early on, because they’re likely to stop reading your story right there.
So these are the seven tips and suggestions I have learned some by myself experimenting with my stories and some because of some generous author friends. Some of the tips are obvious but at the same time are extremely important. If you don't want a reader to dodge your book(s)
What are the tips that you have learned? What do you study on your way to becoming an author? Please let me know in the comment section below. Small tips really make a great difference. Trust me I have experienced that. Alright, that's all I have for today, I hope that was helpful.