Darcy Pattison divides her subject matter into six steps:
- Clarify your idea
- Review your skills
- Plan the opening chapter
- Plan the opening line
- Now, write!
I think the material on backstory and flashbacks is especially valuable. My favorite quote from the book is this: "You put the backstory at the point where it impacts the emotional weight of the story." That is right on! The author presents practical techniques for writing flashbacks, but just as important is the discussion of the wheres and whys of flashbacks. She says, "Why include this flashback? It must up the stakes, provide motivation, increase the emotional tension; it must relate to the current novel in a vital way. If it doesn't do this, if it's just there to give us a history lesson, cut it."
I also appreciate that the author says a word about trying too hard to grab readers with your opening. Frankly, first lines that try too hard to be weird or bizarre or over the top jerk me out of the story before I'm even in it. She covers so much more, too, such as providing context in your opening (where are we? How are we, emotionally?), types of openings such as "the moment before" and the prophetic opening, using a mentor text, classic patterns for opening sentences, and assignments that can help you get unstuck. Whether you already have a draft of your novel's beginning or not, for guidance as you zero in on honing that beginning, try this helpful book.