Three steps to immortality:
- Skip the clichés.
- Use your own words.
- Live forever.
Use those few minutes before a meeting starts, standing in line at the supermarket, and waiting in the doctor’s office. Instead of watching TV or checking social media, write. All those micro writing sessions add up to pages, which add up to chapters.
There are many overused story openings that you should avoid at all costs. Several literary agents, acquisition editors, and publishers have written about this, but here is a short list of the most annoying and disliked ways to start a story.
Do not open your story with:
Get your characters out of bed already.
Nonfiction authors have the benefit of being real-life narrators, yet they often remove their own personality from their books.
When writing a nonfiction book, use your own voice. It should be a voice of authority about the subject and a voice that matches the tone of the book.
The beginning of your story is meant to be an induction to the rest of the story as a whole. Your job is to hook your readers from page one and give us a taste of the rest of the book.
I recently performed a developmental edit on a well-written thriller. In the opening scene, the protagonist is hiding in a closet and listening to the sounds beyond the closet doors. She is eventually discovered and makes a break for the exit. Throughout the book, the protagonist does a lot of traveling and encounters many dangerous people, but the book starts with her stuck in a closet.
How could the author make the first few paragraphs representative of the entire book?
My suggestion was for the author to show us the survivalist we come to know in the book. She is resourceful and lively, cautious but daring. By showing us a character who searches the closet for weapons, devises a plan or two, and moves as stealthily as possible, we’re able to see the gumption and intellect that will aid the character throughout the book.
Now when she makes a break for the exit, we are cheering her on and hoping she escapes. We already like her because we already know her.
You’ve made a new year’s resolution to get that book done. So, let’s do it.
Every Monday for the next two months I’ll offer a time management tip that will change your behavior and the behavior of those around you, resulting in more time to write. Be warned: these are going to be succinct, useful, and harsh recommendations.
Time management tip #1: Say “no” a lot.
Once you start a new project, excuses will keep you from working on your new venture. By “excuses” I mean people you think you must please and events in which you think you must participate. Take this week to say “no” and realize how many time suckers are lurking in your life.
Why we say “yes”
We often say “yes” to events because we feel like we might miss out on something. Keep saying “yes” and you’ll miss out on writing a great book. We also say “yes” because we don’t want to disappoint anyone, no matter how many times they’ve disappointed us. Instead of letting other people down, you let yourself down. Over and over again. Stop it.
What happens when you say “no”
People might be miffed, but you’ll have written a killer scene, so what do you care? Those who care about you will admire your dedication. Those who get mad and stay mad were never planning to read your book anyway.