Your novel needs to start with action right from the first line. The first line needs to make them finish the first paragraph. The first paragraph needs to make them want to finish the first chapter. The end of the first chapter needs to compel them the read the next chapter. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Why do you want to do this? Readers are deciding whether to stick with your book right from page one. They may be checking it out in a book store or reading the sample first chapter online. You want them to like what they read and that means it can’t be boring.
Starting with an exciting chapter gets your readers through chapter one. If you’re smart, you’ll write a page turner. You can find some tips on that in my article What Makes an Article into a Page Turner? With page turners, every chapter ending makes them want to read the next chapter right through to the end. That’s what sells books. But, you have to get the hook in at the start of the first chapter.
Is Action the Only Good Hook?
A mystery is also a good hook, but there still needs to be some action. Something needs to be happening.
The detective is investigating a series of art thefts where there doesn’t seem to have been a break in. What’s happening? Where’s the action? There isn’t any. Instead, when the books begins, the detective can be pounding on a low life criminal with the reader wondering how he’s going to keep his job after this. As the chapter progresses it can come out that the low life is not just an art thief but wanted for sexual assault and ran when confronted. Now the violence makes sense and the protagonist’s job is safe.
Maybe you’re writing a romance novel. Where’s the action here? Romances have conflicts. How about a confrontation with a cheating lover? The start and end of any romance can have its drama. I don’t write romances, but if you do I’m sure you can find a way to start with action.
But, Older Books Don’t Start with Action
Older books were written before movies came along. They were also written before there were 30,000 books published every year. Today, there is plenty of competition. The readers at publishing houses have huge piles of manuscripts to go through. If the first page doesn’t grab them, they move on to the next manuscript. Online, readers want to see at least a few pages or they may not even consider your book as an option.
It’s become a fact of the writing life.
Start your novel with action.
Article by Ivan Izo.