When I wrote my first book I started the story in the obvious place – the beginning. But as critique partners and editors began reading it the opinion was the same – I had started in the wrong place. It was then that I learned an important lesson. Where you choose to start a novel is very important. It doesn’t necessarily have to start at the beginning of the story – and in most cases it’s probably better if it doesn’t. A novel needs to open in a way that pulls you in.
So I started reading authors who I believe do this well and I attempted to emulate them. One author who does an amazing job of grabbing you on the first page and never letting go is Jodi Picoult. And she almost never starts a story at the beginning. Some of her books start at the end and work their way backwards. Some start in the middle. Some weave in between past and present.
So now I agonize over the first chapter of my books. It sometimes takes me weeks to finish the first chapter. I mull over where to start my novel for days and weeks before my fingers hit the keyboard.
“Engraved” opens with a scene that actually happens toward the end of the “story.” Then in Chapter Two we find ourselves going back several years. The remainder of the book vascillates between the present and past, acting as brush strokes to paint the complete picture.
In the novel I am currently writing (working title: The American Dream) I open with a scene which takes place in exactly the middle of the story. In chapter two we go back several years and in the middle of the book we’ll find ourselves back to our original scene and work our way forward.
I’m still learning and am certainly no Jodi Picoult, but I’m working on it…..