Give Your Opening Some Space

From a post – Top Five Errors New Writers Make – by Carol Gaskin. I read this at Editorial Alchemy.

I hadn’t thought about this but I probably do it all the time. I make the mistake of not starting with something really planned so I plan as I write it. Maybe this is why I don’t tend to get anything more than short stories. I am always writing in the short story form, trying to pack everything into the opening rather than giving it some space.

#3 In Fiction—Opening in the Wrong Place

New writers often get stuck trying to cram everything they know about their protagonist into the first chapter and attempting to use every word in their vocabulary as well. I know, because I did this myself in my first novel! In most short or full-length fiction, you’ll want to open your story on the edge of the action, and then keep it coming. First, engage your reader in the trajectory of the story. Then allow your characters to gradually reveal their personalities and secrets.

Does your first chapter include a lengthy flashback? Have you spent the first twenty or thirty pages explaining the context for your protagonist’s predicament? If so, chances are you have begun in the wrong place. Don’t let your protagonist wallow in the past until the ongoing present is firmly established—if ever. Ideally, your book should move forward in time. You’ll also want to cut any long passages of background information from the front and integrate the material into later chapters. Today’s readers do not want to wade through pages of description or history before discovering what the book is about. Your characters’ plight must capture your readers independently of the background we will come to learn.

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