Where Do I Start My Novel?

This is the number one thing you need to stop worrying about if you want to write a novel. The opening scene you are angsting over doesn’t mean squat. Now when you have finished your first draft, it starts to become important. When you have finished your fifth draft, it becomes very important.

But to start, just write what excites you, what you care about and keep going.

Remember, your first draft is you telling yourself the story. Your second and subsequent drafts are you telling readers the story. Big difference.

Start with something bad.

For fun, here are the opening scenes of my first five novels:

K-Town Confidential (2018) A beautiful Korean woman crawls around in broken glass picking up blood-stained hundred dollar bills.

Kat & Maus (2019) A lawyer drops his wife’s silver framed portrait in the trash.

Dash & Laila (2020) My new book starts with a plane crash in the Sahara desert. Our protagonist rescues a teenage girl and her father. He immediately regrets it.

The Fergies of Beverly High (2021) A teenage girl dumps a box of personal photos and memories on her best friend’s front steps.

The Only Witness (2021) opens with a bear dragging a human body into town one snowy morning and dumping it in front of the bar.

What do these openings have in common? Nothing, except they get down to business instantly. As a writer, no one pays you to warm up.

Sometimes you just know. Dash & Laila took five years to write but the opening scene never changed. I don’t think that will ever happen to me again.

The trick with writing novels is to move forward. If you circle back too often you will just go in circles.

It matters not where you begin. And you don’t even need to stress about it because your story will give you its own opening when it gets in the mood. Like when you buy nine pizzas and the tenth one is free. All you need to do is pay attention.

If you manage to finish even the first draft of novel you will know your story much better than when you started, and you will probably have improved as a writer. That’s when you should write your beginning.



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Brad Chisholm

Brad Chisholm

Brad Chisholm’s novels include K-Town Confidential (2018), Kat & Maus (2018) and Dash & Laila (2020). He is published by Black Rose Writing.