Skip to main content

NANOWRIMO - Beginnings

Friday 1st November 2019 - Beginnings

No matter what anyone tells you, your beginning is spectacularly important. No pressure or anything, but if a reader doesn’t gel with your first line, your second must be amazing.  The general rule of thumb is, the further a reader is expected to go to find the story, the easier it will be to lose them.

Starting a book can seem a bit like a rocky, uphill struggle - but it's worth it!

One of the most well-known beginnings:

In the beginning was the word

It’s difficult to rival that one!

But it’s a statement of truth (let’s leave fact out of it, as most of use NaNoWriMo writers are in the business of fiction), and that’s what most of my first lines are.

Petrovia Lodge was all that could be expected of a country house for a family of a not inconsiderable income.
Day’s Dying Glory

In a country at peace, men of war are confined to their homes and families.
Beneath Black Clouds and White

The springy heather underfoot was the only thing which coaxed on the faltering footfalls of the tartan-clad man as he stumbled forward.

‘The gule block is almost spent,’ a delicate voice announced from the curtained archway, the first sound of the new year.
The Year We Lived

All of these set the mood and paint a picture in the reader’s mind.  They also serve to establish the voice for the rest of the story to come.  The most important thing is to make sure your opening line is true to the rest of the book, and that it doesn’t just fill a space on your blank Scrivener page.   

Remember, this is not so much your hook as your bait, you want to make it irresistible to your target audience.

And it’s not just your first line.  Everything in your first chapter wants to lay the groundwork for the adventure which is going to unfold, whether that is focussing on one character so your reader gets to really appreciate and emphasise with them, or introducing a whole host of them to create the image of a busy confusion.  Once you’ve got this foundation laid, your story will begin telling itself, you’re just a tool for the telling!

Here are a couple of things to think about in the opening pages of your novel:

  •  Place is vital! You don’t have to be heavy-handed and detail every brick in the wall, but you do want your reader to connect instantly.
  • Starting with speech grabs your reader but tell them who’s talking, or they begin your story with preconceived ideas.
  • Don’t use any voice but your own, or the story will feel stilted.

Virginia Crow


  1. My favourite opening line has to be by Muriel Spark - "He looked as if he would murder me, and he did". If I could write anything that was half as witty and macabre, I would be happy!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Me again (minus typo!)
      Wow, that is an amazing beginning! Talk about opening with a punch!

    3. I know! I "think" I'm getting the book of short stories this comes from for Christmas - so that's my Christmas ghost story sorted 😅


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

GUEST POST - "Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book?" by Jessica Norrie

  The Magic Carpet  is available at I'm absolutely thrilled to share this gem of a blog by Jessica Norrie on the Crowvus Book Blog. It's personally relatable for me, too, as I'm teacher who also writes children's fiction. I just love all the comments made in this blog - they are so true! It's a delight to meet another author/teacher/soprano! Check out the links to Jessica Norrie's books at the end of the blog too! Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book? Primary and English teachers spend their days with books. It’s not surprising many dream of writing their own. Some make the big time - think Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Michael Morpurgo. Teachers start with several professional advantages: 1) All child and adult human life enters the classroom. Teachers overhear conversations, respond to different personalities, encounter heartrending or enviable household  circumstances. They see family and cultural likenesses and cont

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: On the Hoof!

When people say they’re doing something “on the hoof”, it generally implies they’re making it up as they go along. When it came to writing my first book, I did so on the hoof in more ways than one. The photos that feature in Craggy the Coo Wants a Place to Call Home  were snapped all over Scotland, from the top of mountains to the surface of Loch Ness. But the words that accompany the pictures were largely concocted near my hometown of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. I’m relatively notorious in these parts for embarking on epic walks of 20-30 miles around the surrounding hills. And while most people would carry their phone to chart their route or maybe listen to music, I used mine to put words to my pictures. Having all the photos of Craggy’s travels on my iPhone meant I could weave a clear narrative together based on where he happened to be, and what could be seen in each image. So I would set off on a long walk armed with all I needed to create the verses and his direction of trav

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: My Inspiration

When I’m asked who my favourite author is, I also tend to consider who my favourite writers have been at various stages of my life. When I was very young, Roald Dahl could not be beaten. Like many children, I found his sense of mischief combined with superlative storytelling and Quentin Blake’s glorious illustrations irresistible. In my angsty teenage years, I must have re-read JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye  about 20 times, dreaming of leaving boarding school and running off to the States with just a rucksack on my back (which I actually did for a year when I was 17. I wasn’t quite as rebellious as Holden Caulfield though. It was all above board.) But the writer who has stood the test of time with me most, and was taken from us far too soon, is Iain Banks. I love the twisty intrigue of Complicity , in which my hometown of Langholm has an early cameo. I adore the assault on the hypocrisies of organised religion that lie at the heart of Whit . In my teens, I was traumatised in a can’t