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Monday, 30 June 2014

Vicky Adin has 10 Tips on How Not to Begin a Book.

Have you noticed recently how all the blogs are full of advice? Apparently, this is the way to attract attention, and the more you can narrow that advice down to 5 best ways / 7 days to / 10 tips for… etc., the more people read them.

Most of the time I find these attention seeking options annoying, because much of it is basic, oft-repeated advice that people in the field already know about. I look for deeper, more meaningful advice from the masters, which you rarely find on social network. Occasionally, I’m proved wrong.

As writers, we can all get into a bind, and get a bit of a block about what we do. We have our own style, our voice and the genre we like to write in. It’s worked for us. We enjoy what we write, we enjoy others who write like us, but as the world of self-publishing gets more crowded we need to work out a way of standing out. A good opening is a great start.

How many times have we heard that the opening sentence, paragraph or chapter is THE most important in the book? And how many times do we have to rewrite the first chapter to even begin to get it right? If you are anything like me, then several times.

I tend to start off reflective with back-story. That is how the characters get under my skin, until I know them so well I can think, talk and react like them. This process takes time, but even when we do go back to write that first page, how many times do we find ourselves loath to delete nearly all of it and start again? But needs must… so today I’m sharing one of those snippets of information I found on social network.

Because these words come from literary agents who are the gate-keepers to what is acceptable and what is not in the trad published world, maybe we should at least heed a little of what they say.  In the SP world, our readers are our gate-keepers.

To paraphrase my take on what not to do in Chapter One:

  1. Don’t spend time developing a character to then kill them off a page later. Either they are important and should live, or they are not in which case I don’t need to know them.
  2. Don’t start with dreams or reflections.
  3. Show don’t Tell – Don’t describe everything about the setting or the character or the scenery or what they had for breakfast.
  4. Avoid information dump.
  5. Avoid prologues.
  6. Get on with it! If nothing is happening on the first page, then why would the reader stay?
  7. Don’t get carried away with ‘purple prose’ – flowing sentences with endless adjectives and clich├ęd settings.
  8. Your protagonists are not physically perfect gifts to mankind – don’t describe them as such.
  9. Be realistic. If an action or scene seems implausible then it probably is.
  10. And lastly - avoid backstory. My penchant. Oh, dear!

Sometimes we need reminding of what readers like and don’t like – and it often has nothing to do with what we like.



Vicky Adin

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