How do you know if your novel starts in the right place?

One of the most common mistakes in an early draft is not starting the novel in the right place. It’s true, here are the most frequent culprits I have seen in my work on manuscripts, in no particular order:

  1. Starting with backstory
  2. Starting when nothing is happening
  3. Starting “in media res” but it is so much without context that the reader has no hope of understanding what is going on.
  4. Starting with quotidian details that are not important to the plot at any point
  5. Starting with an infodump

Take a quick look at your beginning—is yours one of these?  If it is, it’s okay, you can fix it! Here’s a hint for where to start your story. It seems simple, but think about it.

A story starts when something changes.
  1. I Have Some Questions for You starts when someone sends a video link to the protagonist that starts her down the path that changes everything.
  2. My Mother’s Secret starts when Regina goes on the run to escape the secret police.
  3. Act of Oblivion Starts when the father of the Gookin family brings two regicides home to Massachusetts to hide them in his family home.
  4. Mexican Gothic starts when Noemi’s father sends her to find and look after her cousin.
  5. Hamnet starts on the day he becomes ill.
Where does your story start?

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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