Indie Author Weekly

079: Tips & writing prompts for the opening scene of your novel

September 29, 2020 Sagan Morrow Episode 80
Indie Author Weekly
079: Tips & writing prompts for the opening scene of your novel
Chapters
Indie Author Weekly
079: Tips & writing prompts for the opening scene of your novel
Sep 29, 2020 Episode 80
Sagan Morrow

Today's episode of Indie Author Weekly shares 3 tips, plus a list of ideas and writing prompts, for how to start writing your novel. After all, sometimes one of the hardest things about writing your novel is actually starting it! After you write “Chapter 1”... what comes next? 

I encourage you to do 3 things when you’re writing the first scene in the first chapter of your book… TUNE IN to this episode of Indie Author Weekly to get the tips, PLUS 10 writing prompts for writing the opening scene of your novel!

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Show Notes Transcript

Today's episode of Indie Author Weekly shares 3 tips, plus a list of ideas and writing prompts, for how to start writing your novel. After all, sometimes one of the hardest things about writing your novel is actually starting it! After you write “Chapter 1”... what comes next? 

I encourage you to do 3 things when you’re writing the first scene in the first chapter of your book… TUNE IN to this episode of Indie Author Weekly to get the tips, PLUS 10 writing prompts for writing the opening scene of your novel!

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Hello friends! Sagan here. Welcome back to Indie Author Weekly, where I share my behind-the-scenes journey of writing and self-publishing books. 

If you’re new to this podcast, I am a productivity strategist for multi-passionate creatives at SaganMorrow.com: I help people manage their time and energy effectively, through customized, actionable strategies that work for your unique life and business. When I’m not teaching about productivity to solopreneurs, I spend my time writing romantic comedies, and occasionally, business books. And that is what this podcast is all about: the adventures of the author life.

Now let’s get into this episode of the Indie Author Weekly podcast. Today I want to share a list of ideas for how to start writing your novel. 

After all, sometimes one of the hardest things about writing your novel is actually starting it! After you write “Chapter 1”... what comes next? 

I encourage you to do 3 things when you’re writing the first scene in the first chapter of your book…

#1: Dive right into the action. 

Start in the middle of a scene! For example, Her Bad Idea, which is Book 7 in my Polyamorous Passions series, begins with Scarlett stepping onto a stage and performing burlesque. 

You don’t need to start your book with the character waking up in the morning or getting into their car. Instead, jump ahead to the action: they just spilled coffee all over themselves at the coffee shop, or their car just stalled in the middle of the highway. Those are way more interesting places to start a scene, don’t you think? And you can always do some flashbacks or write a couple lines to explain the backstory leading up to this moment a few paragraphs later.

#2: Write whatever seems fun or interesting to you. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re bored when you’re writing, then your readers will be bored when they’re reading. So, gloss over any scenes that don’t interest you! Write a scene that gets you excited, a scene that you have fun with. 

Basically: if you could write anything, what would it be? Start with that and take the story forward from there. 

#3: Use your scene as an opportunity to illustrate who your main character truly is. 

How can you set the stage for the rest of your novel with that first scene? When you think about the essence of your character, for example, who are they? The first scene is a great opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the book. 

Now that you have those 3 tips for starting your book, I thought I’d give you a list of prompts to help you out—including using some real-life examples from the books I’ve already written and published in my Polyamorous Passions series. You can read these romantic comedies for yourself at your favourite e-bookstore, or visit SaganMorrow.com/books.

Here are 10 ideas or writing prompts for writing the first scene of your novel and starting your book: 

  1. The middle of a conversation. This is how I begin Book 6, Out of Control: the main character, Helen, is at a job interview. Chapter 1 starts with dialogue, in the middle of the interview. I think this is much more interesting than if the scene started with her entering the room and introducing herself—and this is a good example of diving right into the middle of the action. We don’t need to know what happened on her way to the job interview, or how the interview started. 
  2. Main character having a revelation or an epiphany. This could be a fun way to have a “turning point” for the character. Why wait until the end of the book for a big change to happen? Start your book with a real punch!
  3. The end of an important interaction. I really enjoyed writing this as the intro to Book 3, Make Me Forget: Emma’s boyfriend breaks up with her. Literally the first sentence of that book is, “It’s over.” There’s some power to starting at the end of a crucial moment.
  4. The opposite of what “should” happen. For example, it’s the middle of the day, and a person should be at school or at work—but instead, maybe they’ve ditched it to go to a festival. Anything that’s different than what a character “should” be doing can be good for grabbing attention.
  5. Some kind of seemingly mundane action that actually sets the stage for the book. This is how I started Book 5, Being Good: Helen is at the dining room table, revising her wedding vows so that she and her husband have room for being non-monogamous. Ooh, scandalous.
  6. An intense or fiery emotion that your main character is feeling. You can build out the rest of the scene from there: why are they feeling rage or desire or overwhelming sadness or euphoria, for example? Explore that.
  7. A dream sequence. These should be used sparingly, but they can be a great way to see into the main character’s subconscious fears and desires. This was a theme I used throughout Book 2, Gaming the System, and it’s also how the book starts. 
  8. A question. That’s a great way to pique your reader’s interest. It could be a question the main character is asking themselves, or a question they posit to the reader, or a question that another character asks your main character, perhaps.
  9. An excerpt of a fictional book that your main character is reading. Similar to the dream sequence, this can be a fun way to get insights into your main character’s mind. Plus, it keeps your reader on your toes! For example, Book 4, She Wants More, begins with Helen reading a fantasy erotica novel… which could throw my readers for a loop for a moment, since She Wants More is a contemporary romance novel. 
  10. Your main character is stuck in an awkward moment. Maybe they got caught in a lie? How are they going to get out of it? 

There you have it! 3 tips for what to do when you’re beginning to write a new book, plus 10 writing prompts to help you start your novel. 

As I mentioned, if you’d like to read the books I mentioned in my Polyamorous Passions series and check out those opening scenes for yourself, then you can grab any of my romantic comedies for yourself at your favourite e-bookstore, or visit SaganMorrow.com/books.

Now, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram, @Saganlives, to chat about it! And you can send me a message on either of those platforms if you have requests for future episode topics, too. The more you tell me what you’d like to see more of on this podcast, the better that I can accommodate that. You can also submit your questions or topic ideas anonymously at SaganMorrow.com/question

If you enjoyed this episode, please take 2 minutes to share this podcast on social media and subscribe and rate it on Apple Podcasts—any time you share it or leave a rating or review, it helps more listeners find the Indie Author Weekly podcast, so every bit counts! I really appreciate your support.

By the way, you can access complete word-for-word transcripts of this episode and all past episodes, plus sample chapters of my romantic comedies and a few other bonuses and goodies, on the “secret” version of this podcast. Get access to all of that at SaganMorrow.com/secretpodcast.

Thanks so much for tuning in to the Indie Author Weekly podcast, and I will see you in the next episode.