At the Scoopit! link you’ll find interesting ideas about what not to do as you start your book. Enjoy it at Writer Unboxed.
I think the most common problems with openings in any genre are false starts and a fascination with the weather worthy of a meteorologist with OCD. It’s that sort of throat clearing that appears in a lot of manuscripts and annual Christmas newsletters. I like to start much closer to the action than that, no matter the genre or from whom the Christmas newsletter is sent.
On the other hand, some people go from tepid to hostile about prologues. They just don’t like them. Personally, I don’t mind prologues and epilogues or flashbacks at all, as long as they’re well-written, of course. I find these devices only fail when they don’t propel the action and deepen our understanding of character. (Full disclosure: There are a few flashbacks in Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, but I got praise for them and no reviewers complained they threw up in their mouths.) So there’s that.
ADDENDUM: Hey, I just realized something. This post at Writer Unboxed (subscribe there!) has 469 comments on it (at press time here at Ex Parte Press). It’s nice that people are eating up all this awesome advice. However, more than one commenter said they were guilty of a few of the sins. Um…not to be a curmudgeon, but you can commit these “sins” and still succeed. It can be a handicap, yes, but what sinks one manuscript can soar in another. These issues are not merely textual. They’re also contextual. Look, I’ve written two books of advice about writing and publishing (so far), but I have to point out to new writers again: Please don’t take all writing advice as gospel. If you’re a writer, you’re a rebel. Don’t deny your nature.
Sometimes writers break rules. I know the gurus say you have to know the rules before you can break them, but if the result is good, why exactly does that matter? Take advice as a guideline, not as commandments that substitute someone else’s judgment for your own. If we wanted to follow rules, why be a writer at all? Trust your compass. Listen to your voice. Just because someone else made an obsession with plants and weather an egregious read doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. (Some of Annie Proulx’s work comes across as a botany lesson and she’s done mighty fine.) A kiss and a warning.
See on writerunboxed.com
- I believe (but I’m not a belieber) (allthatchazz.com)
- Where’d Chazz and his book contest go? (onlysixseconds.wordpress.com)