We’ve all been there. The best novel idea is bouncing around in your head and you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, trying to figure how to break the ice and start putting words to paper.
Oh, that feeling is rough. It’s like, “C’mon, I’ve got gold in here, I just need that first sentence to really kill it.”
Well, let me tell you. You will rewrite that sentence. Now, I would recommend doing it later instead of six million times before you even start. You’ll lose that golden idea you’ve got before you finally put that last punctuation on your sentence, trust me. So, I’ve come up with some tips to help combat that. These tips are things I’ve used (or learned the hard way that I should have).
- Write the most cliche thing ever.
You will rewrite this later in your editing phase, so sometimes I start out with something like “Once upon a time” or “It was a dark and stormy night”. It lets my mind move past it but it also sounds kind of right (thanks Disney) so that you won’t keep worrying over it.
- Skip the first page all together.
I know, this one sounds a bit strange. But jump right into the middle of a scene. Keep it near the beginning, but craft the scene bouncing around your brain rather than forcing yourself into one that isn’t there yet. Act as if you already have those entry scenes. This gets you into the action fast.
- Tell us the ending.
This only works in some novels, so use it cautiously. But, telling your reader the ending with the very first sentence brings in this tension throughout the whole novel of how we get there. Many novels have done this well, starting with something like “This is the story of how I died” or “This is how I ended up becoming queen.” But remember, it adds suspense throughout which means no big reveal later. Weigh the options.
- Tell someone about it
Things tend to come more naturally when talking so get with someone you don’t mind giving a brief overview of your story. Explain the premise and then ask yourself and answer to them “So, how did all this begin?” See what flows out and tweak that.
- Don’t procrastinate
This is the most generic bit of advice but the most important one. A lot of people, myself included, try to nail that first sentence and never get anywhere else with their story. Put something, anything down and move on. If you start researching or brainstorming and it just begins to take away from your story, you’ve hit the danger zone. Remember, this is a first draft. You can perfect later.