When it comes to the crucial opening pages of a story, not only have I committed every no-no in the book, I continue to commit them. In other words: I suck at starting novels.
Among my worst offenses:
* The Preface – avoid at all costs! I inwardly groan when I catch sight of one. So why do I keep writing them?
* Backstory – never, never, never in the opening chapter and yet there I go explaining away.
* Introducing too many characters. A writing instructor counted 13 cameos within the first THREE pages of my historical novel.
* Telling not showing. How novice! (And boring.)
Aurora Sky has the highest volume of violence, action and humor of any book I’ve ever written. And how does it begin? Snore city – checking out her dream college with her mother. La dee da. She’s actually skipping in an earlier draft of the book.
Not exactly a page turner. (At least I axed the original preface.)
This setup was employed with a specific purpose: Show the reader Aurora’s hopes and dreams right before ripping them away from her. Portray her as the obedient daughter and obliging friend in stark contrast to the hellion she becomes after she’s brought back to life and undergoes a traumatic initiation.
But it doesn’t matter what comes next if the reader never gets beyond the opening pages. I spent weeks stewing over this. There are plenty of action scenes I could draw on – the car accident that changes Aurora’s life for one, but that felt cheap in a ‘spring it on the reader’ sort of way.
I think I’ve found my compromise. In J.A. Konrath’s book on publishing he says Start With Action. I now begin Aurora Sky with a fight scene. It’s a bit of a teaser since it’s from a sequence that comes a bit later, but I did find a way to morph it into the final countdown leading to Aurora’s crash. It’s a much better fit for the overall tone of the story, which is dark and sarcastic.