By Janet Spencer King

Are you writing a novel? How to pace your novel is a crucial element in its success. No doubt you’ve spent days thinking about first lines, paragraphs and pages. Naturally you want your first words to capture readers’ attention, to get them to read your book.

Writing TipsMany first-time fiction writers assume that for instant attention, they should start with their story’s Big Event. An imagined example: “The country road wove peacefully through the hills, but the accident on it that night splintered the XX family for good.”

Nope, that’s not the way to go. In fact, uber-author Jane Smiley advises waiting until 10% into your story before you introduce the Big Event. Here’s why.

Readers must have a chance to build comfort with your characters and their world before you stir it up.

The Big Event is called the “destabilizing event,” the action that sets the story in motion. But to destabilize the story you’ve got to start with stability, content that tells readers about the world that is—and only then what changes it.

However, the need for a great first sentence or paragraph remains.

The challenge is to write an intriguing or mysterious or compelling statement that introduces readers to the world as it is.

Great example one: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” (L. P. Harley, “The Go-Between”)

Great Example two: “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. “ (Carson McCullers, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter”)

Your independent editor will help you write a winning beginning. In the next blog I will discuss a winning ending. It’s all of a whole.