If you are anything like me, coming up with an idea for a new story is easy. Ideas are like sneezes. They just happen. Fleshing it out? That takes a bit more work. Getting it all right? That’s even more work. Whatever your problem area is, it is covered in Darcy Pattison’s latest how-to for writers, Start Your Novel: Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter.
At only 98 pages, it is a lean volume. I’m never interested in reading anything too long as an ebook which is how I received this volume. That made this length just about perfect for me. Chapters include:
- Why Editors Focus on Page 1. This chapter discusses problems that editors frequently spot on page 1 including too little or too much information or no opening scene.
- STEP ONE: Clarify Your Idea. An exploration of 29 different plot templates and how each will shape your individual story idea.
- STEP TWO: Review Your Skills. This chapter is an overview of what is needed to do two things that are absolutely essential to writing a publishable novel — writing in scenes and writing with sensory details.
- STEP THREE: Plan the Opening Chapter. What an opening chapter needs to do as well as some of the most common mistakes in opening chapters.
- STEP FOUR: Plan the Opening Line. The first line can hook a reader or leave them cold. Pattison challenges writers to create up to 12 different types of opening lines to see what each one has to offer for their particular project.
- STEP FIVE: Now, Write! A fairly self explanatory chapter, don’t you think?
- STEP SIX: Revise. Pattison takes the reader through a variety of potential problems including plotting issues, characterization and pacing.
As always, Pattison’s strengths are the numerous examples that she gives to illustrate plot templates, opening lines and more. It isn’t enough to simply read Pattison’s book, she expects you to put it to use and she means now. Do it and you’ll reap the benefits.
Believe me. I know.
I didn’t intend to work through all of this since I was reading on the treadmill. That said, I wrapped the book up with the idea for a new novel bubbling away in my brain.
I’m also looking forward to doing the opening lines exercise with my current work in progress. For this particular middle grade, I’ve finally nailed the first chapter — I start with just enough information to create curiosity in the reader and empathy for my character instead of the pointless slam, bang action that previously made up my opening scene. That said, I’m sure my first sentence still needs work and I have the tools that I need to create a first sentence that is just as good as my new first chapter.
Although mine is a PDF for reviewers, paperbacks of Pattison’s book can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.com. If you prefer an ebook, you can pick up a copy for the Kindle at Amazon, the Nook at B&N or Kobo format. Pattison will give you the tools you need to address whatever problem you have in creating the best possible opening for your story.