Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Beginning and the End - What about the stuff in between?

A lot of writers focus their energy on the beginning of their novels – the first chapter, the first page, the first line. There are no words to describe just how important the beginning is. In that first line, in that first chapter, you must hook your reader. For some people, the decision of whether or not to read a novel hinges on their first impression of the beginning.

Probably the next section of the novel to receive the most attention is the end. The end can be many things – the culmination, the climax, the build up, the wind down, the explanation. It is the final place to bring the whole story together or to set up for a sequel. Just as some readers base their impressions upon the beginning, so do others base their impressions upon the end. I have met numerous individuals who will read the end then decide whether they want to read the rest of the book.

With so much attention placed upon the beginning and the end – what about all the stuff in between?

Writing a novel is more than just a stellar beginning and an ending that leaves you begging for more. Writing a novel is about the whole. It is very true that you must grab your reader from the first line, but you also have to hold your reader’s interest throughout the book.

I have read postings by several agents saying things such as the following:

Lately I've noticed that the first 1-30 pages are AMAZING and then the story falls apart. I have a feeling this is a result of so many contests out there for opening page critiques. I'm so not against that (obviously), but if you receive constructive feedback and choose to apply it to your manuscript, you must apply it to the entire manuscript. Just the opening pages are not enough.” (Kathleen Ortiz, Literary Agent with Lowenstein Associates - link to the quote here)

Do a little test with your manuscript. After you are certain that the first and last lines (pages, chapters…) are perfect, take a look at the rest of the novel. Randomly go to different sections and ask yourself some questions:

Is the story plot still strong? Does it drag? Is there too much backstory? Is there action to move the story along? Are there any twists to keep the reader’s attention? Is the dialogue captivating and natural?

Give the same attention to the rest of your novel as you do to the beginning and end. Make sure that your entire novel is as enticing as your first and last sentence.

In book/publishing news:

Borders has filed for Chapter 11, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 30 percent of their bookstores will be closing. Find a full list of which stores will be closing here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this is very sad. Borders is a great bookstore, and I have always loved going there to browse and shop. I found out that one of the stores that will be closing is the one in my area. Very sad indeed….


  1. Hey Kristin,
    Loved the post! I think this is where a great crit group/crit partner comes into play too. We all know there has be that strong hook, but if that's all it is, the story won't stand on its own.

    I love to have a few sets of eyes on my stuff because other people will pick up on things I miss!

  2. Rebekah - You are absolutely right! Crit partners are a huge help in making sure that the novel is perfect all the way through - not just at the beginning or end.

    Great comment! :)