“…we start in the middle and fight out way out.” -Vickie Karp
What is possibly more important than a beginning in a book? I argue that it is the most valuable part.
The beginning is a fishing line, with a dangling silver hook. A slimy, wiggling worm has the hook pierced through its belly, and is submerged in a river full of book-loving trout. If we can hook the reader, we may just sell a book. Beginnings matter because first impressions matter in reading and in life.
When I think of first impressions, my mind wonders back to the early 2000s when American Idol was all the rage. Singers who sang sour, flat notes usually begged Simon for another chance. Simon would roll his eyes. In American Idol and in writing, you don’t get another chance. Readers won’t wait to hear words sing the right notes, they want them to sing gloriously right away.
As a reader, I can say that with certainty. When I pick up a new book, I want to hear the most beautiful, soul-bending music. I want a character that I don’t know, or care for (yet) to click with me, like we are kindred spirits. I want the character to grab me and put me inside of their mind and I want to dance inside their world.
Beginnings are so very important! Moreover, as indie authors, we can sometimes offer sample chapters for potential readers. Even if our writing isn’t the best quality, if we are able to hook them with our samples, the readers will thirst for more. The only way that they can get more is to buy our books.
Coincidentally, I don’t know about everyone else, but I found that the most important part of the book is the most difficult to write. It was a fight. I was Pacquaio and the task was Mayweather. Only difference is, I got a rematch. Several, in fact. I threw away multiple beginnings to “Cadence: Secrets of Wings” and now at my final hour, I’m still picking at it. I want it to be interesting and riveting while, at the same time, something that makes perfect sense. (I’m going for an easy read) To create this mind-blowing beginning, there are so many things that I’ve tried to avoid, including offering too much mundane back story.
Here is a true story: I actually had 2 or 3 chapters, as a beginning, in which my character was in school learning about her mission. Several months later, I smacked myself in the forehead. “Why do I think that my (potential) readers want to be in school with my character? Learning? YAWN!!!! They are reading right now..for PLEASURE! Get that character out of class!”
Needless to say, those chapters are in the trash. I tried my very best to weave back story into the rest of my book, in a way that it was interesting. However, I found it to be difficult with fantasy. Obviously, I have different rules in my world and my character wasn’t raised like my readers, so I have to orient them somehow. It wasn’t easy to make all of these decisions.
I felt that writing my first three chapters was like a juggling act, and I had never been trained how to juggle. So I did it anyway and kept dropping the ball. Picking it up and trying again. And again And again. Finally, my beginning started to sparkle. Fingers crossed that it sparkles like a silver hook. I HOPE SO! 😀
I have to remind myself that nothing is worth having unless there was a fight to get it.
Now to get back to polishing my hook 🙂