Let’s start at the beginning…

Today the Clan Elves welcome autor Mandy Moore, who will be our Fraulein Maria for the day.

 “When you read you begin with A,B,C, when you write you begin with….”

I was asked to write a blog for you lovely people about how to start a novel. What do you think I did immediately afterwards? For those of you who said ‘procrastinated,’ I shall hand you a virtual cookie! So I will start out by saying the worst possible way to start a novel is obviously to not start a novel. The mistake many novelists make is to look at that blank page, whether it be lined paper or a white writing document, and think I can’t do this. Think, instead, like the Little Engine that could. I think I can, I think I can.

That being said, many people believe the first sentence to go down in print is the most important part of the novel. It is your hook. It determines whether or not anyone wants to continue to read the story. It is live or die from the very beginning. If the first sentence sucks, surely the rest of your story will suck. If the first sentence rocks the rest of your story will follow suit. Scared? Don’t be! Throw this whole paragraph of terrible, negative thoughts out of your mind and remember that these are exactly the things you don’t want to be thinking because it is so not true! The most important part of your novel is the synopsis.

After procrastinating long enough I went in search of the worst possible ways to start your novels. Here’s what I found, it is a bad idea to:

Start with dialogue – If you choose to start with dialogue don’t take it too far. Readers don’t start out knowing your characters so if you have your main character conversing with someone else about something important it is possible the reader will be confused from the beginning.

Start with a cliché hook – The first sentence is the hook for your novel as soon as the reader opens the book but you don’t want a giant neon sign flashing “I’m a hook, I’m a hook!” That being said this simply means you don’t want to start with anything like, It was a dark and stormy night. Anything you think is overdone probably is.

Start with too much info – Again with the confusing readers. Its just a bad idea all around to confuse your readers. If you bog them down with too much information at the beginning it is almost certain they won’t remember everything they are supposed to and you run the risk of boring them as well.

Start with endless description – This goes hand-in-hand with the too much info thing. You aren’t writing a screenplay so it is best to start on some sort of action that will get your reader’s wanting to know what happens next immediately.

Start with a dream – This one goes hand-in-hand with the clichéd hook thing. It is overdone. However, if you don’t believe it is overdone there is also another downside to it. When a reader enters in on a dream and finds out a few paragraphs or a few pages later that everything was a dream they will feel betrayed. The reader won’t know what to believe and what not to from that point forward. They also won’t know what is important and what isn’t.

 With that in mind your novel is your creation. Especially for NaNoWriMo you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the first sentence because you will inevitably change it during the editing process. Not to mention you have so much more novel to write that you don’t need to get bogged down in concerns about how to start.

I want to take this last paragraph to thank Lyndi for allowing me to guest blog on her wonderful blog. I also want to thank all of her readers for letting me intervene with my two cents. Good luck with your writing everyone!


To find out more about Mandy, check out her writer’s blog. Thanks for visiting!


  1. Mandy

    I only recently checked my gmail account and found that you had posted this up. I was excited, obviously. I wanted to say thank you so much for allowing me to guest on your lovely blog. Also I can’t believe how you prefaced it with my being Fraulein Maria as “The Sound of Music” is my favorite movie ever. Thanks again. =)

  2. tina

    You make it sound so easy can’t wait to read that first novel I hope it is soon.. I am so proud to know you.

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