Start where the trouble starts. That’s a simple rule of writing -or, I should say, it sounds simple. The first scene in a book is always the most difficult to bash into shape. You have about a paragraph to get the reader hooked. In fact, most of the time, you have one line, so it had better be good.
Assuming you can hook the reader with line one, it must be backed up with a bang-up first scene. She needs to finish that scene wanting to know what happens next. To get the reader to pick up the book again, she needs to care about the characters, be invested in them. All in the first scene.
I went through about five opening scenes for Let’s Dish. I couldn’t get it right. I got lucky with Another Time Around. My first scene was fine once I added a few tweaks and a brief intro-scene. But currently I’m working on the first scene for two books, Happy Medium and Guys and Dogs. Both scenes start where the trouble starts, and yet… not. There’s a delicate balance to be maintained, between revealing the characters and the dreaded “info dump” where the author over-shares. If you know me, you know I’m all about over-sharing.
Another problem with my first scenes – they tend to be too long. That’s right, I can’t waffle on for ten pages and expect the reader to hang in there with me. I need to reveal the characters, put them in a no-win situation, and get out all in about five pages.
Is it any wonder writers are insane?
My solution? Move on. Yes, I am throwing in the towel, fixing the rest of the book, and then going back to the beginning. I am what is called a “pantser”. I go into a story with a basic plot in mind, but I let my fingers do the plotting. The story leads me, not the other way around. So on a first draft, I don’t really get into the book myself until about a quarter of the way through. When editing, it’s the same issue. So if I can polish the rest of the book and make it sparkle, I should know where I need to start. Right?
Yeah. I’ll keep telling myself that.