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:
an alarm clock buzzing;
a character jumping out of bed, running late;
the first day of anything new (e.g., school, job);
Chris Kyle gives a well-written, detailed account of US military life during the Iraq War. If you’re seeking to understand the mindset of Iraq War veterans, American Sniper might be a good place to start.
Using words in your historical fiction that weren’t used during the book’s time period detracts from the book. You might have a good plot and writing style, but your readers are expecting a well-researched narrative.
One of my favorite tasks when editing historical fiction is checking the etymology of words. Picking out the time-traveling words takes instinct and curiosity. I once researched “cute” out of editorial instinct and learned that it is short for “acute” and was originally synonymous with intelligent rather than adorable. Considering the time period of the novel I was editing, “cute” didn’t make the cut.
J. K. Rowling’s advice about protecting writing days is fanciful. Days? How often does the average writer get a full day just for writing?
Work, school, and family obligations keep most writers I know from ever enjoying so much as half a day to themselves. However, Rowling is correct in using the word “ruthless”; writers need to be unflinching when it comes to their writing time.
In order to manage whatever writing time you get, you must set boundaries.
It’s important to let anyone who might overstep those boundaries know what you expect during your allotted writing time. Your family and friends need to know to leave you alone. It helps if you can be specific. Saying “I’m going to write for an hour” instead of “I’m going to finish this scene” might actually result in an uninterrupted hour of writing time.
Let go of the guilt
When you have a stretch of time during which to write is when people will most want to spend time with you. This is an unexplained phenomenon similar to what happens when you sit down to read.
Write first and spend time with them later. It’s nothing to feel guilty about.
Don’t sabotage yourself
Sometimes getting other people into the habit of respecting your writing time is easier than getting into the habit yourself.
Don’t answer the phone thinking you’ll be able to get off the call in a few minutes. If you went to a coffee shop to write but did more people-watching than writing, don’t go there again. Turn off the TV.
Time management starts with saying “no”; drawing boundaries is more like saying “not right now.” It’s the crucial second step to having enough time to write.