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    For Writers

    The First Page: The Happy Writer’s Novel Writing Guide

    Novel First Page

    Opening a book for the first time, a reader wants to feel like they can trust an author to make good on their promise to tell a satisfying story. When writing a book, it’s easy for a writer to overthink your opening scene. You don’t want to inundate your reader with too much dense information, and you don’t want to open your book with a scene that does nothing to actually service the story. So, when you’re putting together your book’s opening, what should you be thinking about? What should go into that very first page?

    The First Page

    Have a first line that resonates — and pulls you right in.

    It doesn’t matter so much if your first line is some intensely quotable sentence that will forever be immortalized on Best First Lines in Literature Listicles and bookish tote bags and inked on diehard bookworm’s forearms. What your first line needs to do — the only thing it needs to do — is make the reader want to read the second line.

    The first line doesn’t have to be a show stopper. In fact, it needs to be a show starter. Your first line needs to part the curtains, switch on the lights, and pull the reader into the action on the stage. Try not to overthink this part, and try very hard not to overwrite it. Write exactly the sentences the scene needs in order to work, and worry about the first line of your novel only as an incidental consequence of starting your scene in the right place.

    Set the tone.

    Whether your book is humorous, fantastical, a tense crime thriller, or a sizzlingly steamy romance, you want to tonally represent those elements right off the bat. Your first page shouldn’t open with a scorching sex scene if the rest of the novel is a sexless political satire. Let your voice shine through right away, and let readers know exactly what’s in store for them if they stick around.

    Introduce plot-affecting characters.

    Ideally you would introduce your main character, or maybe antagonist, on the very first page of your novel. At the very least, make sure any character you’re introducing is important for the story that follows. Don’t introduce someone only to kill them off before the end of the chapter unless their death spawns the events of the story. So, make sure it makes sense, from a story’s perspective, to open with whatever character you choose.

    For instance, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone doesn’t open with Harry. The first page introduces Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, the strict and rigid Muggles whose lives are about to be upended when an orphaned infant wizard is placed on their doorstep. Vernon Dursley is an active player in the Harry Potter series, with a role that persists throughout the seven books. It’s not egregiously out of place that the novel begins with him, especially as we consider Vernon’s section of the chapter a look at the Wizarding world from a resistant Muggle’s perspective.

    Above everything else, your first page needs to start your story.

    This is where understanding plot structure and really, really, really understanding the story you’re trying to tell becomes vitally important. Your first page should lend to your first scene, which should launch your novel like a bullet from a gun, sending the reader on a soaring trajectory that doesn’t let them go until the target’s red bull’s eye is struck. Don’t worry about explaining your character’s backstory, or providing dense chunks of worldbuilding. Think of your novel like a moment; decide on the opening scene that introduces your characters, your conflict, and your setting. A full scene, not the start of endless exposition, but a moment in your character’s life.

    If you do that, if your first page starts your story, then everything else is icing.

    Happy Writing. : )


    Looking for more novel-writing advice? Try some of the following posts:

    Wreath: Plotting in a Pinch Quick Guide to Plotting Your Novel

    Plotting In A Pinch: A Quick Guide to Plotting Your Novel

    Use A Mini Climax to Strengthen Your Novel’s Sagging Middle

    novel writing midpoint mirror moment

    What Is The Midpoint Mirror Moment?


    What are some of your favorite opening lines and first pages of novels? Are you confident in your WIP’s first page, or are you struggling with it? Leave a comment below, let’s chat!

    For Writers

    Advice For Writers: Make Realistic Writing Goals

    Hello, Happy Writers, long time, no see! I didn’t mean to go on such an extended hiatus — Hurricane Irma scattered our lives for several weeks, then October flew by, and now NaNoWriMo is chewing up my life! EEK. But! I have returned to issue you your weekly writerly goodness. 🙂

    So, we’re deep in the thick of it for NaNoWriMo (Become my Buddy!) and, by now, we’re all probably feeling a tad overwhelmed by the task we have set for ourselves. You might be feeling you’ve bit off more than you can chew with NaNoWrimo — or, in fact, with any of the writerly goals you’ve set yourself this month.

    What is the answer? How can we set goals for ourselves, shoot hit, but not get overwhelmed at the same time? I’m constantly gripped with guilt over the amount of writing I haven’t done — and very rarely do I remember to feel proud for the work I have put down. Before you beat yourself up for not reaching whatever goals you have set for yourself, consider — it might be your goals, not your writing, that are the problem.

    Read more…

    Blog

    A (Not So Happy) Hiatus

    Happy Writer is going on hiatus for the next little while. There won’t be a new post tomorrow, and I’ve unscheduled the posts that were coming up for the next week. As you might know, I live in Southwest Florida, which is currently in the path of Hurricane Irma. We’ve evacuated from Fort Myers, where the hurricane is potentially making landfall, but were only able to get up to my sister’s house in Sarasota — still in the hurricane’s path. Irma should be weaker by the time she reaches us up here, and my sister is at a good elevation. We should be fine.

    Just in case, though, I thought I would put this blog on a hiatus, since I will probably lose power and wouldn’t be able to respond to comments or promote tomorrow’s post.

    Happy thoughts, guys. I’ll update as soon as the storm has passed.

    For Writers

    5 Things Harry Potter Taught Me About Writing

    We all have those books that make us write better. The books we turn to when our creativity tank is running on fumes. The books that make us want to write. The books that made us feel like writing was possible.

    I wanted to share five writing lessons I’ve learned from one of my favorite book series, Harry Potter. JKR’s fantasy series is lusciously liberal with description and teeming over with amazing characters; it’s no wonder that this is a book series that readers return to time and time again. Can writers learn something from JKR’s crafting of the Wizarding World? What are some of the elements of Harry Potter that make it so inherently, and insatiably, readable?

    Read more…

    For Writers

    Setting Up A Writing Notebook

    Confession time: I go through a lot of notebooks. A lot. I’m talking oodles of doodles, piles of paperwork, sizable, human-crushable stacks of my semi-legible scribblings. I may be single handedly responsible for the destruction of a hectare or more of precious Amazonian rainforest, who’s to tell??

    I’ve already introduced you to my Revision Binder, where I keep all my editing notes for my WIPs. In addition to that binder, though, I like to keep a spiral notebook for all my daily scribblings and note-takings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still fill files and files and folders upon folders on my computer with my brilliant (or belligerent, again, who’s to tell) prose. but there’s something about the tactile experience of putting pen to page that helps me to sort out my thoughts like no other. Sometimes I’ll stop writing a scene on the computer and switch to working it through in a notebook, just because it makes my brain feel better.

    Now, when I finish these notebooks, they’re not always in the best of shape. I tend to ink the pages till they’re black and blue, and bend and twist the spine beyond all recognition. But, in the beginning, my notebooks are pristine, adorable, and earnestly organized. What I’m getting at is, it’s almost the start of the month, and so it’s high-time I put together my writing notebook for the month of September — and it’s highly advisable that I take photos of the process now, before I muck it all up with my sloppy handwriting and tendency to leave cold, wet drinks sitting on my open notes. (Oops.)

    If you’ve ever been interested in creating a notebook dedicated to your writing, or you’re just curious how I set mine up, settle in! I’ve got pictures and an unhealthy addiction to washi tape to show you.

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    For Writers

    5 Features Every Chapter in Your Novel Should Have

    5 Features Good Novel Chapters Have

    In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still nostril-deep in revisions for my WIP. As I’m revising, I find myself taking the story on chapter by chapter, and really examining the ways in which I can make each individual chapter satisfying, exciting, and, most importantly, contribute in a vital way to the plot overall.

    So, what does make for a good chapter? I can think of five key attributes successful, satisfying chapters have in common. If you’re writing or revising your novel, here are some things to look for:

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    For Writers

    10 Gifts For the Writer In Your Life

    Hello, Happy Writers! Tomorrow is my birthday (Cue the confetti cannons and cart in the seven layer ice cream cake, thank you very much — what, you mean you didn’t get me a seven layer ice cream cake? Well, fine.) As I try to scrounge my brain to appease the relatives impatiently asking me what I want them to buy me for my birthday (bookstore gift cards, please and thanks), it got me thinking — it can be difficult to buy gifts for writers.

    Writers tend to be reclusive, introverted, quiet little creatures who are happiest when left alone in our own worlds. So, what do you get a writer who has no immediate need for anything? What do writers want?

    Here are some ideas:

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