Tuesday, April 1, 2014

B is for Beginnings

Day two of the A to Z challenge! And I've chosen beginnings.

I thought I might share my checklist when I look at the first page. I have used this list on novels and short stories and I find it useful when macro editing.


1.       Does the story start in the right place? Has something momentous happened? 
       Is something going to happen in the next few lines?
2.       Have you started with a hook? Does that first line grab the reader?
3.       Are you writing active sentences?
4.       I like short punchy first sentences and paragraphs.
5.       Does it pique readers’ curiosity? Writers aim to make it difficult for readers to put down our work.
6.       Have you introduced you main character? A must with younger readers.
7.       What’s the problem? The character should have one. Maybe a bit of conflict.
8.       Is it confusing? Are there too many characters?

Basically in the beginning you are aiming to;
·             Start at a key moment in the character’s life
·             Make sure that the change will have consequences
·             Introduce the main character
·             Show movement or arevealing conversation
·             Make the reader want to read more

I have a few checklists for editing purposes. They help me.  Also, if you are in a writing group or have been asked to provide feedback, having a list like this can make you more focused.

Why not try it?


  1. What a fantastic list! *frantically copies notes down for future use* Conflict is definitely my biggest flaw, I really struggle to set up the stakes at the start of a book, usually because I'm too busy rambling on about the characters and their setting. I'm usually OK by the rewrite, but this list is a definite Godsend for my future ventures, haha :-)

  2. A very useful list, thanks for sharing :)

  3. Great list! I do a lot of text based roleplay and this could help me a lot with setting up a good base. Looking forward to learn more from you! ^^

  4. thanks for the list. Will keep in mind the next time I write a story :)

  5. I used to be a big fan of the Attention-Grabbing First Line.
    ...till I realised I could barely recall any.

    First pages, yes. First paras even. First lines? Not really (excepting the classics).

    Maybe it's just me - but I'd love for there to be a proper study of this.

    And hello right back at you.

  6. Just so you know, I'm copying this list and keeping it on my desktop. You make some very good points. Thank you for sharing.
    Tasha's Thinkings

  7. Good advice. Bookmarked for future reference ... and possible plagiarism. Just kidding! ;)

  8. Great list. :) I refine those first pages many times before I (hopefully) find the right balance to incorporate those items. Great blog, too!

  9. I will have to write a story like that at some point. Starting in the middle of something.

  10. Quite useful information!! Look forward to the development of your A to Z blogging this month.

  11. Great checklist for writers! Thanks for sharing. I was happy to be able to say yes to almost all of those for my current WIP!
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April
    Challenge 2014

    PLEASE TURN OFF WORD VERIFICATION! It's like a "keep out sign" and we've suggested this a lot as we've tried to prepare our participants for success. I guarantee you'll get a ton more comments without it. Disable anonymous comments instead, it's much more effective.

  12. Very useful list, thank you for sharing.

  13. Thanks, I hope to start editing in May!

  14. Quiet Helpful list. Thank you :)

  15. yes editing is so hard. good luck on the challenge!

  16. This is really useful - I always find the opening of a book really difficult and this checklist is fantastic for checking the construction.
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX - A to Z Drabblerotic

  17. This is a useful list, I'll have to use it to check my novel out :)

  18. Although I don't write novels, I can see how this list could be adapted for research writing or blogging even. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Great advice! I could definitely use this to kickstart some of my shorter stories.

  20. Beginnings are so important there are entire writing books devoted to how to begin a story. Good B post!

  21. Nice list. "Does the story start in the right place" is such an important question--so many stories turn out much stronger when started in the middle of the action rather than before.

  22. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  23. Great list. I might add that Checking for adverbs is important too.

    Good luck on the A to Z Challenge! Looking forward to reading more.

    JC Gatlin

  24. I like your list. I would use it to cut to the chase. The first short story that I wrote--which was long, long ago--conflict didn't show up until page 3. I was so in love with my pretty sentences way back then. :-)

  25. I like your list, Comley. Very helpful.

  26. That's a great list and it's something that translates across all the different genres :)

  27. I've never used a checklist before, but that sounds like a really good idea. Why the heck did I never think of that.

    With my stories, almost all of them come to me starting with the ending. This is a bit maddening, because then I have to work backward, or enough so, that I can feasibly create a beginning.

    With the last pieces of my fiction I broke that "Does your story start in the right place?" For some reason I began somewhere completely different than I had built my story around. May have to keep a checklist to keep that from happening again!

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

  28. List has been cut and pasted into my editing notes - with your name and blog and date. You deserve credit for this. Erin Penn (a-to-z participant)