I’ve said before here that the beginning of your book needs to explode!
And in this blog post about how to begin a book I talked about the basics.
Moment of Change
Moment of Change
But today I want to expand on the very most basic thing, the explosion.
|Mary Connealy--giving orders AGAIN!!|
To launch a book be thinking about the reader. Maybe flipping through your book in a bookstore. Maybe reading an excerpt on Amazon.
You need to grab that reader and HOLD THEM.
And this is important….when you’re an author think about the editor you’re pitching to. Think about how hard it is to catch someone’s interest who reads books all day every day. What you need to do to catch that editor’s attention is exactly what you need to do to catch the reader’s attention.
You need a first sentence that just BANG grabs them, makes them wonder what’s next. Makes them curious.
Now I know we can’t all be shooting people all the time. (I can maybe but not all of us).
My constant advice to ‘shoot somebody’, works perfectly to represent what you need. You need to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
Something fascinating, something important, something that makes the reader be riveted to your pages, forget the clock and lose herself in the pages of a book.
Now seriously … each and every one of you. (Yes, you too, Ruthy, Miss Million Books in Print!!!) go look at the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page of your book.
Does it GRAB and HOLD. Not JUST grab, but also HOLD.
We all know not to start with the heroine driving and thinking about all that has brought her to this point in her life, right? WE KNOW THAT RIGHT???
This is basic training stuff. Go look at your beginning and please tell me if your book does that, you are going to GET RID OF IT.
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And don’t start with a backstory dump either.
No, the beginning needs to MOVE. At the very least the doorbell rings and GREAT BIG TROUBLE (in the form of an old boyfriend, or a deadly serious policeman, or maybe an angry, doorbell ringing rattle snake) is on your character’s porch with bad, bad, bad news.
If anyone is brave today, I’d like you to post the first few paragraphs. Look at them. Do they grab and hold. Do they explode? If not, why not? What can you do to fix them?
We can talk about them. We can revise if you need it or if you’ve really got something great, we can learn from you!
If your book starts with a phone call to come to the hospital, your father had a heart attack, do NOT start with the phone call, start with the character sprinting into the hospital calling for help.
Heroine dangling by her fingernails from a cliff.
An explosion blows you out the fourth-floor window of your apartment.
A rabid dog lunges at your throat.
It doesn’t have to start on the first sentence, that should be a charmer all it’s own. But soon, the first paragraph, certainly the first page.
I’m going to list the openings of some of my books. Read them if you want, skim them or skip them, I just hunted around and tried to find books I think started really well. I’m actually a little dismayed at some I THOUGHT started well and realize now, as I read to select great openings, that some of them could’ve be faster, more explosive.
No Way Up
The steep sides of the pass into the canyon pressed down on Heath Kincaid until he could hardly breathe. Though it was a blustery November day, a sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead. It surprised him because Heath knew mountains, and he knew tight places.
He rode behind Chance Boden, the owner of this vast New Mexico Territory Land Grant, and John Hightree, the foreman of the Cimarron Ranch, and two other men brought up the rear riding single-file, their aim to fetch the cattle that’d gone in here.
They passed the busted down gate Chance had put up to keep cattle out of this rugged, grassless canyon.
“That fence was stronger than the backbone of the Rockies.” Chance looked in disgust at the gateposts that just yesterday blocked the entrance. “That cantankerous bull shouldn’t’ve been able to knock it down.”
He led his men around the splintered lumber. “Let’s make short work of getting ’em out!” “
Heath was just passing the ruins of the gate when he heard the rumble. Right overhead. Only one thing made that sound.
“Avalanche! Run!” Heath reined in his stallion so hard it reared.
In horror he looked up as he whirled his horse. He saw tumbling rocks knock debris loose. The rock slide grew, picked up speed. Those ugly, rolling stones, raining down the side of the narrow neck of the entrance to this canyon aimed right for them.
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Now and Forever
Matt Tucker could take people for only so long and then he had to get up in the mountains, all the way up where he was more likely to run into a golden eagle than a man. He’d wander in the thin pure air for a week or two, to clear his thoughts. Forget the smell and behavior of men.
He slung a haversack over his shoulder, it had everything in it he needed to live, and rambled up a trail that'd scare the hair off a mountain goat. He’d left his horse behind, wanting to travel light and go places even his tough gray mustang couldn’t.
This time it wasn't men driving him to the high-up peaks. This time it was a certain head full of dark curls and a pair of shining blue eyes. Not a man—though no one would admit it—which was so odd he almost turned around.
In fact he wanted to turn around so bad he walked faster.
That hair, those eyes were why he wasn't paying attention, which was a good way to get a man killed in wild country.
He scooted past a boulder on a trail as narrow as coal black lashes on bright blue eyes. Then rounded a curve as tight as dark curls—and stomped on the toe of a bear cub.
A squall drew his eyes down. A roar dragged them up. He looked into the gaping maw of an angry mama grizzly. He hadn’t heard her or smelled her. Honestly, that was so careless and stupid he almost deserved to die.
She swung a massive paw and he had no time to dodge. She knocked him over the side of that mountain.
|The hero of No Way Up is a little boy in Over the Edge|
Over the Edge
A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach, threading a needle to miss all four passengers.
“It’s a hold-up!” Callie grabbed her rifle. “Get down!”
The stage driver yelled and cracked his whip. More flying lead hit, higher on the stagecoach. The man riding shotgun got his rifle into action.
“Get on the floor.” The woman sitting across from Callie was frozen with fear. That endangered Connor and it made Callie furious.
The bullets came fast. They were going slow on a long uphill slope. With the driver's shout the stage picked up speed. From the roof came a steady volley of deafening return fire.
Reaching reached across, Callie grabbed the woman by the ruffled front of her pink gingham dress and dragged her off the seat. Somewhat more gently, Callie picked Connor up from the seat beside her and set him on the woman’s lap. Eight-month-old Connor yelped, more a shout of anger than a cry. But crying would come soon enough. Her little wild man didn’t do anything quietly.
“Can you shoot?” She shouted at the young man, hoping he’d snap out of whatever panic had seized him. He shook his head frantically. “Get on the floor.”
Callie used her whiplash voice and hoped it got the man moving. She threw herself across to the woman’s seat to face backward. With her Colt in her left hand and her Winchester in her right, she shoved the curtain aside.
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Sharpshooter in Petticoats
Tom Linscott slid backward five feet before he caught a slender rock ledge and clawed at it to stop himself from plunging a hundred feet more.
The rock was nearly sheer. He felt blood flowing from his fingertips. His grip was shaky already and now it was slippery. He clung to that ledge like a scared house cat, afraid to move, fighting to slow his slamming heart and steady his breathing. He’d been climbing a long time and he had a long way to fall if his grip didn’t hold.
Then he did what any thinking man did when something scared him. He got mad.
So, he clung to the side of that stupid mountain, gathered his strength to go the last twenty-five or so feet, and fumed. He was a rancher not a mountain goat. He should not have had to climb up here.
No woman should be this hard to get.
I’m Not Kidding
Those first few words need to matter.They need to GRAB AND HOLD.
I’ve just re-read No Way Up and I really like the beginning of this book. I think it’s a grabber.
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NO WAY UP!
|Click to read a longer except from No Way Up|
Cimarron Legacy book #1
New Western Romance Series from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy
When Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid saves him. Badly injured, maybe dying, on his way to a distant doctor, Chance demands that his Will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.
Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don't live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.
Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath's desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.