start a novel- Momina Arif's Blog

5 ways to never start a Novel.

Writing a Novel is a tricky business. You will spend a lot of time reading, more so than even writing and this is to research ways that an idea can be executed. Now there are many rules to start a storyline, and you should take them all with a grain of salt. There are always exceptions to the rule and they are almost always more fun to read. 

Having said that, sometimes the novels just start wrong. 

Here are a few ways of starting a novel that will entail bad luck for your novel and by bad luck I mean, I will put it down. 

1. An alarm goes off. 

If I had a penny for every time a story starts by the protagonist waking up the sound of an alarm clock and being annoyed because of it. Fast forward they’re getting reading for school and they don’t put much thought into what they’re wearing and there’s a younger sibling in there somewhere showcasing more structure and personality than the protagonist. 

The most originality I’ve seen in plots like this is that the dream that ends with the alarm clock and the character wakes up panting and sweating, or the smell of breakfast fills the room when they wake up to the first and ominous day of something. 

There’s nothing wrong with stories starting like this except for they are always starting like this and I’m tired.

Here are a few of the acceptable ways of incorporating dreams into your story.

2. Weather and landscape. 

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I love more than and unnecessary and picturesque description of a sunset. I love reading about mountains and lakes and beautiful skylines. It’s amazing how a writer can take you somewhere you’ve never been by just using words. But the starting the book off by telling us that it was a cosy fall morning or the night was dark and cold is the literary version of small talk.

As a writer you can do better than small talk.

3. Clichés

Essentially everything that is discussed in this blog post as ways to start a novel wrong are clichés but there are certain literary clichés that we know all too well. Once upon a time and in a land far, far away I was cringing. Then I put that book away and lived happily ever after (reading some other book). 

You must be very sure of yourself and of the story that you have up your sleeve to test a reader’s patience with a cliché such as that. 

4. Description of someplace fictional.

Building a fictional world is something most people love to read, this is why there are so many books out there, each luring its readers into a fictional town, kingdoms or even a whole other planet. Building a whole new world happens throughout a story with bits and pieces coming to focus as the events unfold. You do not start your novel by introducing readers to the magical world, its government, race-ethnicity of the people and religions. It’s great that you have all of this figured out but you do not make the first page or chapter into a PowerPoint presentation of it. 

5. Character sketches.

Most common mistake writers make when they start a novel is describing the character in too much detail. It doesn’t matter if they have blue eyes, or they are scared of spiders and have a flat foot if you do not work it into the story. It doesn’t matter if each and every detail doesn’t serve a purpose. Similarly, the deep desires of characters, their personality and struggles are of no consequence if you don’t learn about them as the story goes and you’re given an infograph to refer back to at the very beginning of the novel. 

More tips on starting a novel here.

Sound off below in the comments about reading pet peeves that you may have.

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