Where to Start?
My critique group has seen the first two scenes of my WIP. I wrote them as alternate first scenes, not sure which to open with. CPs said open with the first one. Craig and Hughes say the second. Ch. 9 in The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, “Why First Impressions Count” convinced me that for this ms, C&H are right.
One of the the things C&H say to do is figure out your “intriguing premise” (What concept/conflict does your plot revolve around?) and your “precipitating event” (What action sets the conflict in motion?) Then decide which has a better hook. Then write a first line/first scene reflecting that.
Before I wrote out my premise and my event, I thought for sure my better hook would be the premise. But no, turns out, the event won. Surprise! So from there I worked on a first line that would grab readers and start things rolling with my precipitating event. That was kind of fun. I sat in my comfy chair with a notebook and tried out a bunch of first lines. Finally, after two or three pages, I found the perfect opening.
The rest of that scene rolled pretty well, but I still used the excellent checklist on page 113 to see if I had nailed the “romance” aspect in my first five pages. Some of the things on the checklist are the usual, but there were a couple of surprises, including the idea of “white space.” After you write the scene, print it out and check for white space, as in dialogue. There should be more dialogue than narration, and little or no introspection, which can lead to the dreaded info dump.
And that’s where my CPs got it right. My early scenes have too much backstory. I cut all that to the bone and my revised chapter is better for it.