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Set up Your Story in the First Paragraphs

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker I receive several first chapters (and synopses) every week as submissions for possible editing, and I always read the first page. Some are clear and compelling and make me want to read more. But too often, two main problems emerge: Either the author spends too much time revving his engine with description or backstory before we even care (boring); or we’re plunged right into the story but have no idea where we are or what’s going on (confusing). There are three cardinal rules of successful novelists: 1. 2. 3. I’ve discussed the negative effects of starting off too slowly, with too much description and/or backstory, in other articles (see the links at the end of this article). Your first paragraph and first page are absolutely critical! So try to work in the basics of the 4 W’s below in your first page — preferably within the first two or three paragraphs. Who? What? Where? When? Also, your first page is a kind of promise to your readers. 1. 2. 3.

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