Want to sell more novels? As you may know, I love collecting tips which I’ve found useful for my writing students. This simple trick (I wouldn’t call it a strategy) will boost your writing skills, almost painlessly. And more to the point, you’ll sell more novels.
It doesn’t cost anything except maybe ten minutes of your time every few days. I discovered the trick when I was working with the students in my plotting class. As with most new authors, some of the students had real challenges starting their books. Putting it bluntly, their story beginnings were boring.
Great story beginnings WILL sell more novels
Your book’s cover and title intrigue your readers. If they’re intrigued enough, they’ll use Look Inside on Amazon to read your story’s beginning.
It’s essential that your beginnings hit the mark. There are no second chances. In 2 Essential Fiction Writing Tips for Great Story Beginnings, I suggested that you:
- Start With Your Primary Character: an Original (Real) Person.
- Conflict: Start With a Bang, or at Least a Thump.
Victorian novelists could get away with waffling about the countryside and the weather in their story beginnings. We can’t. Readers expect to meet an intriguing character, to whom they can relate, as soon as possible after your story starts.
Here’s the trick, and how to use it
The trick’s simple. Here it is.
Read novel and short story beginnings. Lots of them. Over time.
Amazon’s wonderful Look Inside feature means that you can read the first 10% of books. So, since you can use this utility for free, use it. Read story beginnings, especially the beginnings of bestselling books.
Story beginnings can and will inspire you. I find that when I read a great story beginning, I want to turn off my iPad and go and write. Always a good thing. 🙂
When you read enough story beginnings from bestsellers (and other books too), you’ll start to get a feel for them.
And “feel” brings us right back to EMOTION. Yes, I know. I’m always nagging you about emotion, for a simple reason: emotion gives you a free pass. You’ll read some truly badly written novels, and you’ll wonder: why is this book a bestseller? It’s always a bestseller because the book made readers feel.
You don’t need to read 10%. You can stop reading once you can identify the emotion triggered in readers. Then write down a sentence or two from the book (cite it carefully, so you don’t mix it up with your own writing), and note the emotion.
You don’t need to be as stringent in citing the books you take your sentences from as you would be if you were using the source to write your own book, or article, but do note down: the book’s title, the author, the publisher, and the year of publication.
Please get into the habit of citing everything you reference, if you’re not in the habit of it already. It’s just a good habit to get into. There’s nothing worse than finding a snippet of writing, and wondering whether it’s your own, or something you wrote down from somewhere.
Obviously, you’re not going to use any of the sentences you write down. They’re for inspiration. When you write down enough of these, you’ll have a toolbox packed with tips which will help you to write great story beginnings.
Why read story beginnings over time?
One simple reason. You change. The more you write, the more you improve. The more you’ll see, too. When you start out, it’s challenging to see how other authors’ get their effects. Over time, these effects and tricks will pop out at you.
Tip: write your story’s beginning after your first draft
Occasionally you’ll get lucky, and a great beginning for your novel will pop into your mind. Usually not, however. If nothing comes to you, don’t waste time on the beginning. Write your first draft. You can a great beginning later — I’m always tinkering with story beginnings. More than I should, but they sell books, so they’re very important.
OK — start reading. 🙂
Here’s the trick again: Read novel and short story beginnings. Lots of them. Over time.
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