The first 400 word rule for writing stonking novel openers

One of the biggest problems I have when it comes to novel writing is the beginning (though to be fair, that’s probably just the first problem, before I come up against the other two major issues – the middle and the end).
I work hard to try to make the story really start with a bang, with action, immediate goals, and conflict – the lot. But time and time again, my writing group tell me that it just seems to ‘take a while to get going’. There’s a problem. They’re not hooked.

So how can you make sure you’re story really grabs people by the eyeballs?

Apply the 400 word rule

Imagine you’re entering a writing competition, but you’re only allowed to enter the first 400 words of your novel. Those first 400 words have to grab the judges immediately and leave them wanting to know more.

I find if you go back to your first scene (after you’ve finished your first draft of course – no editing is allowed before the first draft has been dragged out of you) and strictly follow this rule - not 500 words, not 450 words – then you can really make sure your story has power and punch from the first page.

You’re forced to cut out any unnecessary scene setting (readers don’t need to know the backstory, they’ll pick it up as they go along), any waffle descriptions (no words to waste!) and forces you to establish a protagonist, a goal and conflict.

All within the first 400 words.
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