How to write the beginning of a novel (with pictures)

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How to write the beginning of a novel (with pictures)
How to write the beginning of a novel (with pictures)

Have you ever wanted to write a novel but couldn't seem to get started? The beginning of a novel is often the hardest thing to write, but it's also important that it fits you well. The beginning of a novel should set the tone for the rest of the book and grab the reader's attention while not rushing into the story or revealing too much too quickly. There are several strategies you can use to start your next novel.


Part 1 of 4: Developing the Story

Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 1
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 1

Step 1. Get inspiration from a novel

Most novels begin with a small seed of inspiration. Perhaps you have an idea for a cool character, an interesting setting, or a unique problem that you want to tackle in the form of a novel. Whatever your idea, you can develop the novel around it.

  • Write about what you know or at least what you are passionate about. If you are inspired to write a novel about Russia in the 17th century but you don't know anything about that time and you are not very interested in Russian culture, perhaps you should reconsider that idea.
  • Try choosing a setting, theme, or culture on which to base your book and on which you know something. Novels feel authentic when the author writes from his experience.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 2
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 2

Step 2. Brainstorm

Before starting the first chapter, you should brainstorm. This first stage of planning is crucial to give you the "big picture."

  • What is the point of this novel? Is it just to entertain or are you trying to make a political or moral point?
  • Who is the audience for this novel? Who do you want to attract?
  • What is the genre or category of this novel? Is it romance, family drama, sci-fi, crime or mystery, young adult fiction, or some combination of these?
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 3
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 3

Step 3. Develop your characters

Although you shouldn't reveal everything about your characters in the first few pages of your novel, it is important that you know their backgrounds in order to understand each other's motivations. Take some time to write about the background of each of your characters. Some questions you might answer as you develop these backgrounds include:

  • Where it is?
  • How did you grow up?
  • What does the character value?
  • What does the character hate?
  • What is its appearance? How do you speak? How it behaves?
  • What is the conflict of this character? How could I end up confronting him?
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 4
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 4

Step 4. Identify the setting

The setting for your novel may be elaborate or sparse, but it is important either way. Before you start writing, take some time to ask yourself a few questions about the setting, such as:

  • What scenarios do authors in that genre tend to use?
  • What is the tone or atmosphere you want the stage to have? How could you do it?
  • Is it real or imaginary? Urban or rural? Big or small?
  • What cities, towns, roads, and structures are present?
  • Should you do your research to learn more about the stage?
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 5
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 5

Step 5. Create a storyboard

This is where you put your plans on paper and make sure everything fits into a coherent and compelling story. Not all ideas that come out of the brainstorming will remain in the final novel so now is the time to determine what will work, how it will flow, and what the structure of your novel might be.

  • You can create a literal storyboard on a large white board or poster, or you can use a piece of paper or a computer document. If you use a whiteboard, be sure to take a good quality photo of it when you're done. The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be inadvertently erased.
  • Start with a "cast of characters": each recurring character should appear here, with their name and a brief description. For example, include age, gender, any important physical characteristics, and their general role in the story.
  • Make a list of each chapter and summarize what happens in each one. You don't need to include every detail, but you should include whatever story elements are necessary and based on previous chapters.

Part 2 of 4: Start writing

Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 6
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 6

Step 1. Decide on the style for your introduction

Sometimes the authors begin with a dream, a conversation, or a description of the setting or the main characters. Other authors jump squarely in the middle of an action sequence. Regardless of how you do it, make sure the style, tone, and point of view remain consistent throughout the rest of the novel.

  • If your introduction is verbose and descriptive like Charles Dickens, the other chapters should be too. If it's concise and to the point like Cormac McCarthy, the rest of your book should stay that way too.
  • Make sure you write from the same point of view as the rest of the story. For example, if you write in the first person in the introduction, write the rest of the novel from the same point of view.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 7
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 7

Step 2. Start writing

The first time you pick up a pencil and paper (or start typing) to write your first draft, remember that it doesn't have to be perfect. That's why it's called an eraser!

  • The first sentences of the novel should capture the reader's attention so that they continue to read. They should also be divinely written and not awkwardly or confusingly expressed so that the reader will notice your writing style and want more.
  • However, if you have trouble with the first few sentences, don't let this stop you from writing. Go ahead and write. You can always go back and add better sentences to start the chapter once you have a bit of the urge to write.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 8
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 8

Step 3. Introduce a couple of important characters

The beginning of the novel is a very good place to give the reader an idea of the type of characters they will meet and introduce them to the protagonist. This gives the reader someone to support from the beginning.

  • Try not to get bogged down in describing the physical appearance of the characters. A few details are good to help the reader visualize the character, but remember that one way readers relate to a story is by imagining the characters in personalized ways. For example, if you say that a protagonist is handsome, a reader may imagine him in a way that would seem attractive to him, but if you say that he has a pointed and sculpted chin, this might not be something that the reader finds attractive so he could have difficulties to relate to him. Too many details make it difficult for a reader to connect with the characters.
  • Don't feel like you have to fully develop the main characters right away. Save some interesting information for later. Just provide as much background as necessary to get you into the story and let them be a bit mysterious.
  • Remember that you don't have to introduce everyone immediately. This can be overwhelming for a reader trying to keep an eye on everyone, so keep the story in focus.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 9
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 9

Step 4. Hook the reader with a problem or dilemma that connects with the rest of the story

Many amateur writers waste time on stage and character development, which can be boring for an amateur reader. After guiding the reader to the stage and a few important characters, you shouldn't waste their time. Try to quickly move on to a problem or dilemma or just a suggestion that a problem will arise soon. This is the hook that keeps the reader reading.

Give clues about the rest of the story. The beginning of the novel should suggest (without revealing) where the story will go, what is at stake, or otherwise what awaits the reader if he or she commits to the rest of the novel. Think of it as tempting the reader to get involved

Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 10
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 10

Step 5. Be relevant

The introduction should connect with the rest of the story and should matter, not just serve as background, context, or introductions. Make it matter! Each chapter, even the first, is a piece of a puzzle.

If you introduce a problem or dilemma at an early stage that is quickly resolved in the next chapter, be sure to introduce a longer-term problem as well. You can also try creating a bit of a mystery about where the details are going in the introduction

Part 3 of 4: Avoid Common Pitfalls

Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 11
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 11

Step 1. Don't reveal too much information

The introduction of a novel should pave the way and provide just enough information to keep the reader interested. Don't reveal important details yet. You must keep the reader's attention!

  • Try to avoid laying out the entire plot of the book or previewing what's to come. You must keep readers on edge.
  • You also don't have to provide the background or all the backgrounds of the characters at this time. Instead, incorporate the backstory into the main story as needed to support the ongoing plot. Remember: the background is not the story!
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 12
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 12

Step 2. Avoid cliches

This may sound obvious but most readers are left cold with cliched introductions and character descriptions that are predictable and cut from the same pattern. While there are always well-written exceptions to these rules, avoid the following:

  • Start with a dream that the reader does not realize that it is a dream. Many readers find it unappealing and misleading. Similarly, avoid starting with the character waking up from a dream or unconsciousness.
  • Begin with a description of the cast of characters, such as family, home, or school.
  • Descriptions of the faces or bodies of the characters that imply that they are beautiful and perfect in every possible way. Most readers prefer a hero or heroine with whom they can relate to one who is perfect and unrealistic.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 13
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 13

Step 3. Keep the beginning short

The average beginning of a novel should be as short as you can make it. If possible, start the conflict on page 1. Don't make the reader wait 50 to 100 pages before getting to the good stuff.

  • Don't get lost in the tedious descriptions. The reader wants action and plot advances, not getting bogged down in the details of a field description or the main character's face, body, clothing, and personality.
  • The introduction should be long enough to cover the topic but short enough to keep it interesting. Interesting and engaging introductions draw readers into the story and make them want to keep reading.
  • It only gives the details that are needed so that the reader feels oriented on the stage and familiar enough with the character to visualize it. Most readers enjoy using their imaginations to bring characters to life so don't feel like you have to describe everything about them.

Part 4 of 4: Continue the writing process

Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 14
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 14

Step 1. Review the beginning of the novel

After you've finished writing the beginning of the novel, you will need to spend some time reviewing it to make sure the story and details align with your vision for the novel. Give yourself at least a few days to reread the beginning of your novel and check for continuity, clarity, and development. Some questions you might ask yourself include:

  • Does everything that happens in the beginning make sense? Does it flow well?
  • Are there any drastic changes in tone that could confuse readers? If so, how can I adjust the tone in these places?
  • Is there something in the beginning of the novel that could confuse readers? Is it possible to work to clarify or develop these fragments?
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 15
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 15

Step 2. Edit the beginning of the novel

After you've finished the content reviews on the first few pages, you'll also need to take some time to edit your work. Read the chapter to check for errors such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

  • Reading aloud is a great way to catch minor mistakes. You can also try reading the first chapter from back to front to make it easier to spot these errors.
  • If you find an error, one way to check for similar errors is to use the find and replace option in MS Word. For example, if you encounter the typo "oprpio" when the word should be "proper", search for "oprpio" and replace all cases with "proper".
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 16
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 16

Step 3. Ask someone else to read your draft

Once you have the first chapter well edited (but still not perfect since that will come later), find a friend or teacher writer and ask him to be your first reader.

  • The ideal first reader is someone who has a strong command of the language, who loves reading novels, and who gives you honest feedback.
  • Ask your reader if the introductory chapter draws them into the story and what is left wondering at the end. The reader will be able to tell you if the story makes sense and can also let you know if it is compelling. Remember that the beginning of your story is the most important part. If the reader gets bored at first, they probably won't even finish it.
  • You can also ask more than one person to read it to get a variety of opinions. This would be a great time to join a writing workshop or creative writing class.
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 17
Write the Beginning of a Novel Step 17

Step 4. Continue with the rest of the novel

After you've mastered the beginning of the novel and received feedback from readers, don't waste time starting Chapter 2. You should keep writing while you still have momentum to avoid the mental block.

  • Remember to stick with the writing style, point of view, and characters that you worked so hard to develop at the beginning of the novel.
  • Also remember to tie up any loose ends of problems, dilemmas, or mysteries that you left unsolved in the beginning.
  • Check out this helpful wikiHow article for more tips on continuing your novel.

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