Five for Friday: Beginnings

Ciao! Today is a “Five for Friday” post, and I thought it might be fun to see how a novel begins.

I don’t know about you, but I find beginnings to be difficult. I’m an outliner, so I have a plan when I start and I know what I want. But getting in the groove and finding just the right way to open the book? It takes me a while.

I thought we could look at the progression of beginnings today, as penned by one of my favorites: Snoopy.

Snoopy's Novel Openings

I have to say, my beginnings aren’t that good the first time through. (Yikes!) 😩

So, I put it to you, SEers. How do you feel about your beginnings? And what might your next line be? (Gotta get the king in there!)

Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

63 thoughts on “Five for Friday: Beginnings

  1. The last book I wrote was already started and around six chapters written. This one I’m writing now, I had to start from a blank page and that was bit daunting. I’m not an outliner, but I will write a short synopsis either before I start but more likely after I’ve written the first three chapters. Since this one is the 3rd one in a series, I’ve had it on my mind and about how to begin, and I already had the short synopsis but it still terrified me to begin from a blank page. I may go back later and write a prologue for a new beginning though– I don’t know yet.

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    • I honestly think starting a sequel is easier than starting book one or a standalone. Even though I outline everything, I stumble over just the right starting point, and sequels kind of have a lot of the questions answered for me.

      I love that you write a synopsis before you get too far along. I’ve always found them difficult to write. They take me several drafts because I have to keep stripping out unnecessary information. Outlines are much easier for me because I can put as much in them as I want.

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      • My synopsis is nothing fancy or structured. It’s just what I know so far and maybe where I want to go with it, but I keep it short. It’s only about 2 ss pages. Just thoughts I have so far. I can’t outline. If I know too much, I lose interest. I’ve tried a couple of times and those were the only two stories I ever got stuck on while writing. I think each of us has to write our own way, outliner or panster, whichever works. I guess I’m more of a planster, mostly a panster but with a little planning.

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      • I agree that we all have to do what works for us. I can free write a short story (sometimes) but I’ve never even attempted to write a novel without an outline. I couldn’t do it. Without something to keep me on track, I’d never be done. I’m glad you found a method that works for you.

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  2. Oh, my goodness! I wish I HAD a beginning! At all! Even if it were the worst of all times!
    (And I DO mean for a novel or a short story or something. 😉 Otherwise, all is fine…)

    And thanks for the laugh this morning. 😀

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  3. I’ve read a lot of posts lately about beginnings. That tells me that lots of folks are starting new projects. 🙂 Beginnings are super important. It’s your big chance to capture the reader once you’ve won him or her with the book cover and the blurb. I don’t like beginnings that drag and are filled with detail and backstory. I like to jump right into the thick of some situation and unravel it as I go. Thanks for the post, Staci!

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    • I’m actually working on the ending for my WIP right now. I’m not sure why beginnings were on my mind. Maybe because I’m already thinking about the next book in the series. And you’re right; beginnings are SOOOO important. (I hate backstory beginnings, too.) Thanks, Jan.

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  4. Once I get the beginning right then the rest seems to come easier, although I find the middle just as hard. I adore snoopy and this cartoon. It had me laughing. I do love when it all comes together until beta reader Linus points out a flaw…lol. Great post!

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  5. I love it. Say what you want about Snoopy, but he’s more successful than I am. I still like to orient and walk people in to my stories. I know I’m supposed to start with action, but as long as there is tension of some kind it seems to work.

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  6. Thanks for the laughs this morning, Staci. I positively adore Snoopy 😀

    As it stands, I’m getting ready to start my next novel and I’m in that “where do I begin mode?” I think I have the starting point figured out, but before I can head there, I’m building character and plot backgrounds. Beginnings are exciting, but they’re also kind of scary. Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to dive in or just poke a toe in the water and see how it goes

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  7. I’m with you on this! I’ve always found it funny how when an idea pops into my mind for a new novel, it’s almost always a scene other than the beginning. It’s easier with my series because the new beginnings leave off where the previous book ended. The one time I thought of a beginning as the first thought of a new novel, nothing else followed. LOL! So, I have an awesome scene to begin a new novel and nothing else. Sigh… I guess it will sit in my drawer of MODs (Maybe One Day) while I continue to struggle with the beginnings of others. 😉

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  8. I try to keep it simple: let the reader know where/when the story is, who the protag is, a hint to the genre, and something askew as a hook. I’ll think of 5 ways I want to tweak the beginning by the time I get to the end, so I try not to stress too much over my first stab at it.

    (I love Snoopy!)

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    • It’s the hook that gets me. I, too, am a believer in establishing status quo so the reader has a chance to bond with the character and recognize (and empathize) when something goes wrong. The trick, for me, is to do that while having a great hook. I eventually end up with a “working” beginning. But I’ve been known to rewrite it fifty times before I’m satisfied. Doing it only five times sounds like Heaven!

      And “yay!” for another Snoopy fan!


  9. Thanks for the giggle, Staci. Great cartoon. I try and open my beginnings like a good movie does … right in the thick of the action. I don’t worry too much because that’s something we can go back and fix once we’ve written that final line. To me, the beginnings and planned endings are only place holders until I’ve finished the whole book. This way keeps both my in-built editor and my muse on speaking terms, lol. 🙂

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    • I don’t think the writing side of my brain and the editing side of my brain have said a civil word to each other in a decade. Well, not when they’re left to their own devices, anyway. When I mediate, they find a cautious detente, but it’s exhausting. I’d rather just keep them apart. Of course, when they collide without my supervision, well… Like I said, they aren’t civil.


  10. I have literally today started book ii in my current series, and oh god is it stilted and hard! You’re so right – compared with half way through, the beginning is a killer. It’s not helped by the fact that as this is book ii, I’m not really sure how much background to provide in the opening chapters about book i! Writing… why do we do it again?

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of the bios I use (paraphrased) says I write because I have a gazillion stories to tell and I publish them because other people are interested in hearing them. So that’s why we write: so many tales in our heads.

      Why we fight with the words on the page is another matter. 😉

      Backstory in sequels is difficult. My best advice to you is when it starts sounding like backstory, you’ve put too much in. Your critique partners, beta readers, and/or editor should be able to tell you if you’ve gone overboard. It also helps if you can find someone to read book two that hasn’t read book one. If they’re lost, you don’t have enough.

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