The most written part of a book is the beginning. Every single person who has the goal to write a book and actually starts writing, writes a beginning. The first few pages of a book are the most important. In those first words, lines, paragraphs, an author has to grab the attention of the reader in such a way that they are compelled to continue reading.
I am an avid reader. I have been reading books all my life. Even though I didn’t keep track of them all, I’ve probably read 1,000 books easily. That’s a lot of first few pages. Most of those books I read all the way through, but there have been some that lost me in those vital pages and when I paused and set the book down, I never picked it back up.
Finding New Books
As an avid reader and writer, I’m always on the lookout for great books to read and potentially emulate in my own stories. About 3 years ago I found a site called BookBub their tagline is “Amazing Deals on bestselling eBooks,” and “Begin each day with personalized recommendations.” They haven’t disappointed. Over the years I’ve acquired quite a few eBooks for my digital library. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to dive into them as much as I’d like.
All Books Aren’t Created Equal
A while ago I did a poll to find out the top reasons why readers DNF a book and the results were enlightening. I spent the last few weeks going through the opening pages of eleven eBooks I found from BookBub, and broke them down to see what the authors did well, and what they did that might cause readers to shut their book forever.
With the rise of self-publishing, I’m aware now more than ever that all books, and all authors, are not created equal. A few of these books did an amazing job hooking me in, but most of them fell flat.
Writing A Strong Opening
When I had the idea for the post I thought about going through each of the books and breaking down what the authors did well and what they didn’t do well. But after writing those I realized they were mini book reviews and not what I wanted this post to be. If you’re interested in the books I read, I’ve included a link where I go through each one and break down their intros.
Instead, here are some key takeaways that I got from this exercise.
Character Development and World Building
Keep character introduction and world building to a slow start. It’s so hard to get emotionally connected to the MC when an author throws half a dozen characters with unique names at you, followed by several cities and nations and the conflicts they are having, not to mention magical items, artifacts, or other unique elements. Introduce a couple characters in the first few pages and allow readers to feel something about them.
The first few lines to an opening need to draw the reader in and get them asking questions. “How did they get there, what are they going to do, who are they worried about…” If you can get your reader to ask questions and create a need to have them answered they will be willing to forgive weaknesses in your actual writing.
Complex Plot vs. Complex Sentences
This one is for all of your writing, but especially important in the beginning. Complex words do not make a complex story. Readers want to ask questions about your character and story, they don’t want to ask questions about sentences and paragraphs.
Value Your Audience
Make sure the people who are giving feedback on the story are your preferred audience. There were several books here that I wasn’t as invested in the story simply because of the type of story, that made me less forgiving. People have opinions, but not everyone’s opinions matter. Listen to the ones that matter and ignore the rest.
Most Important Part
Write, edit, rewrite, edit, and polish the first lines/paragraphs/pages of your novel, they are the most important. You already got your reader to open the book. They read the title, saw the cover, possibly read the blurb, and now they are at the story, make sure that they are getting a quality story.
For all I know these books could have wonderful plots, amazing characters, and fantastic worlds. But because of their first few pages I won’t spend my time reading most of them. Keep your book off the DNF list.