NaNoWriMo has officially began! The Bird that Sings is currently in process. Now as I promised here is my current word count for day 1: 2015 words and I’m on page four. Don’t worry, if you are not there, every writer is different. But on the other hand, this is where planning our book comes in handy as well.
However, I want to get into today’s topic, which is writing that first page. Writing a first page can be challenging for many factors. First its the first page. When you look at it’s blank, just waiting for whatever you are going to put on it. But if you can conquer that fear and get to writing then you have squashed the first page monster.
Secondly, what should be on that first page? There are many things that should be on that first page. You should have character, voice, setting, backstory and plot. Granted, you are not writing that whole novel on the first page, but what you are trying to do is get enough details on that first page to keep the reader engage to read the rest of the novel.
Let’s face it, if you don’t have enough going on in that first page, then the reader is not going to continue reading the book and your work will be for nothing. I’m not wanting to turn you off from writing, but there are things to keep in mind, such as if the voice you use is not strong enough and it falls flat on the first page then you have already lost your reader.
Voice is something has to be paid close attention to. Normally when voice is talked about in writing it usually refers to first person point of view, however, I’m going to also say that third person can also have a voice. If the narration of the third person is not strong then you can also lose the reader’s interest. When it comes to third person, think about a news journalist on the news that keeps you engaged in what they are reporting. If they are not able to hold your attention then they are not the right journalist to keep in your head. Granted, when I was in college and would read boring text books, I would put one of those go to voices in my head and that would make the reading more interesting for me. So I’m going to lend my list of five go to voices to you, and if you need to hear it, you can YouTube them.
- Anthony Mason (CBS)
- Lee Cowan (CBS)
- Rebecca Jarvis (ABC)
- Rita Braver (CBS)
- Edward Herrmann (Non-news/documentary)
Granted, they are not in any particular order, but the two that are my most popular are Anthony Mason and Edward Herrmann. If you listen to them, then you can get a look at how voice can be captivating.
While the other items are important on that first page, voice is the most important for that voice needs to be strong enough to carry out the whole book. If you want an example of this look no further than what books have sold and have sold well, or even became a box office hit for movie ticket sales.
Yes, I mentioned backstory can be included on the first page, but do it as away to sprinkle in the details. If you go over on the backstory details, then you are taking away from your character on page one. Yes, keep who your character is on page one in mind, and how did they get there. There has to be a reason for who the character on page came to be. If you can’t explain that, then your character is not going to be complex as you want him or her to be.
There are many authors that say what needs to be on page one, and while I can agree to a point. Here is my list of what needs to be on page one: voice, character, backstory, plot, setting and most important not that inciting incident. If you include the initial incident on the first page then what are you going to add to page two or three. The initial incident of making the reader ask the why now question should be answered within the first ten pages. However, I will also amend this statement to say look at your genre before going by where the initial incident should take place, such as in mystery that initial incident is not going to answer why today but rather lead to the question of why kill him or her?
That initial kill in a murder mystery should take place on either page two or three. If the kill takes place after that first three pages then you have too much fat and it needs to be cut. Yes, details are important but if they have nothing to hold the reader in those first three pages while you are killing the tool character, then you have to make changes. Granted, that can be done in the editing phase, but also details can be moved to other parts of the book if they are essential to finding the murder or the reason why the tool character was even necessary to be killed.
Maybe I’m being harsh by referring to that first kill as a tool, but it’s true. Let’s face it if it weren’t for the tool being killed off, then you would have no murder mystery to solve or a story to tell.
My last important piece of advice on the first page is make every word count. There is said it and I mean don’t waist words. If words are wasted then the effect of that first page could also be wasted. In other words, make that first page count for something other than the start of your story. That first page and its words have an important purpose and that is to engage your reader and make them sink into the world that you have created.
Granted, there is a lot of pressure that we as writers put on that first page. But just like we have our firsts so do our book’s first page. It’s the first page that readers see when they open the book, besides the title pages or rather front matter. It’s the first page where we are in for the try outs for their attention. Think of it as we are auditioning to be put on their bookshelves or for their reviews. If the first page fails then it is what the book will be remembered for and the reader may not go to the last page.
I hope that you have found this helpful on your writing for that first page. Good luck to all of you doing NaNoWriMo!