Why the beginning of your novel is so important
The beginning of your novel determines how you will reach the end. Even though you may go back and completely change your beginning to fit your ending, you nevertheless got to that ending from your initial beginning. Your characters began from that beginning. Your plot, your world, your themes, sprang from those first few chapters...those first 7,000-10,000 words.
For me, it is crucial that I painstakingly create the start of my novel, fleshing out my characters, my plot, my world, my themes and changing them over and over again until I find the right mix that will serve as my foundation for the rest of the novel. The end might still be undecided and the second half may still be fuzzy, but at least--through patient plotting--I've given myself an excellent beginning to spring from.
Having a strong foundation to begin upon allows an author to quickly and efficiently get into his/her characters. It allows the plot to sizzle from the start. You've heard the writing advice, "start your novel as late as possible and in medias res," well in my opinion, to do this with the most force and power, you don't want to start off with a half-cocked plot, and a general idea for a character. It can even be tempting to have the plot down, but not the character, or the character down, but not the plot. Both of these situations are a recipe for disaster in my opinion, and a REAL pain to edit out later!!
No, if you want to grab the reader by the scruff of his neck and keep him reading, you've got to show a little patience at the start, figure out a dynamic character and a thrilling plot, and then you'll be glad you did as you hurtle that reader headlong into the tsunami you've prepared for them.
Labels: writing tips