“Bang, bang, bangow Writers, , bang, four shots ripped through my groin, and so began the most fantastic adventure of my career.”
This famous parody first sentence introduces the subject of our message today: “Slow Starts.” This just happens to be the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Top Ten Mistakes Fiction Writers Make: And How to Fix Them. (little plug there.)
I’ve lost count of how many novels I’ve edited that begin with giant chunks of backstory, or long sequences of ‘driving to the story,’ or a major flashback that left me wondering where the book was going. My advice for today is take a look at your manuscript and see if you can locate the “inciting incident,” the action that starts the plot in motion (more about this “incident” in subsequent posts.) Where in your manuscript does this incident occur? If it’s thirty pages in, four or five chapters in, rethink your opening. In the first few pages we should know who the main players are, and what is at stake.
I’ve been re-reading one of Carl Hiassen’s earlier books, Lucky You. It’s all about the quest for stolen lottery tickets. We meet the usual gang of shady characters that cavort through the steamy south Florida landscape Haissen has made famous. He gives us the inciting incident, buying the winning lottery ticket, and introduces the characters we know will soon be fighting over it. The first chapter is funny, interesting people come on stage, and we see the setting in all its grungy detail. After fourteen pages we know exactly what kind of a wild ride we’re in for.
Take a look at your manuscript’s opening chapter. Have you done that kind of work? As I’m sure you’ve heard, agents and editors will seldom get beyond the first few page if the story doesn’t grab them.
Give me your thoughts and comments. Your horror stories and your successes. Now go hit those keys. And, to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
John

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2 thoughts on “

  1. Annie, you’re welcome to our new community of writers. What kind of things do you like to write?Let me know if I can help you with your writing problems.

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