I’ve heard that editors read the first sixty-five words of our manuscripts. If they like those words, they go on. In fact, I’ve seen editors do it – read the first sentence or two and then discard it, only keeping one or two out of a stack of twenty.
Author Jean Bryant says an opening should be as compelling as a heart attack.
- Never begin at the beginning. Save the explanations for later. Drop the people out of the plane first, then say how they got there later.
- Start with action. Look for the verb ‘to be’ in your opening paragraph. It could be an indicator of a slow start. (It was a dark and stormy night.)
- Your opening is your contract with your reader
- The proper time to work on your opening is when you’re finished with your novel, article, etc. You don’t know the opening until you have written the end.
- The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The purpose of the second sentence is to….etc.
- Be careful not to start with a volcano. It’s a hard act to follow. Rather opt for a revealing opening, that promises something worthwhile.
- Get the five ‘Ws’ in as quick as you can — Who, What, Where, When, Why.
- Get your reader to care about your protagonist right from the beginning.
- Give a hint as to why it’s important to read this book
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