Starting A Novel

For me as an author, the hardest part about writing a novel is… starting. Where exactly do you begin? An introduction of your characters seems like the obvious place, but it risks boring a reader with details. Starting out with action is probably better, but then a reader might not know what the heck is going on or who these characters are.

See? Writing is hard.

Writing a sequel is even more intimidating.  Feedback from fans about my futuristic erotic romance Programmed For Pleasure has been wonderful, and more than one reader has asked for a sequel – specifically for Tau Cetus police agent Leith Wyatt, my Programmed For Pleasure heroine Jai Turner’s yummy male partner.

So that’s what I’m working on right now. Leith’s story will be called Programmed To Protect.

But I can’t figure out how to start the story with characters that some readers already know well. Do I recap Programmed For Pleasure through dialogue in the first chapter so new readers know the past history, or is that too much of an info dump?  Do I jump right into the action and then feed in teaser bits of the previous story so readers realize there was a Book One?

GAK! Writing is hard.

My gut tells me to start with the action, so that’s where I’m leaning. I plan to have Leith Wyatt fill the reader in on past events as he thinks about them throughout the book, which will serve two purposes: it’ll refresh the memory of readers who enjoyed the first story, and let new readers know the background of what went on before now in these characters’ lives.

Makes sense, right? But I’ll be darned if I can follow my own advice. I’ve already started Chapter One three times.

I’m tearing my hair out.

As a compromise, I’ve abandoned Chapter One for now, and jumped right into the action for Wyatt. By Chapter Two, he’s already had a confrontation with his antagonist and slept with his heroine. (Hey, I write erotic romance. The sex has to happen right away J)  To make things easier on myself, I’ve left the stress and angst of starting the book until later, maybe even until after I’ve finished the book.  It’s certainly given me free rein to immerse myself in the fun stuff – the story of how Wyatt will save the planet.

And who knows? Maybe Chapter Two will become Chapter One, and I won’t have to worry about it at all.

Or maybe not. Maybe the story needs to be grounded somehow at the beginning…

Jeez...writing is hard.

What about you? Ever have trouble with the beginning of a story? Tell me! Misery loves company!!

Jenna Ives


Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Jenna
I definitely found it hard to find the fine line between repetitious and informative.

Last year I wrote the sequel to my first Harlequin Special Edition. It was the brother's story, and wound up writing a scene or two from the first book, but this time it was in his Point of view. It was a very interesting exercise to repeat the same scene but giving the other person's take on it. The overlap from story one to story two was necessary. I hope I handled it okay.
I'm sure you'll do fine, too.
and YES writing IS hard!

Natasha Moore said...

I struggle with beginnings all the times. And not just with sequels. It's a balancing act to juggle the info the reader needs to know right now with the action that's happening...well...right now. I think you did the right think to jump to ch 2. Sometimes I struggle for days trying to find the right place to start. Good luck with your new story!

Veronica Scott said...

I'm doing a sequel now and you've certainly highlighted some of the challenges!

Robena Grant said...

Yep, I agree there is a very fine dance required. I just wrote three spin offs and it was hard to not overexplain or info dump. : )

But I think this is this character's story so you start there. You feed in a tiny bit of a character from the prior book, a familiar setting, a reference or two, it can be as simple as a phone call, something that ties the two books, and then over the next few chapters you continue to do that.

I like your idea of just forging ahead, and then coming back to rework the first chapter later.

Jenna Ives said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I appreciate the pep talk, and it's reassuring to know that other writers go through this, too!


Sam Beck said...

I just wrote a sequel to one of my Brazens and I strugged with everything you're dealing with! Argh! How much backstory...when...and from which character?!! Ultimately I decided backstory is backstory, whether it exists in a prior book or just in my head, and doled it out with the same restaint, using the same "need to know" threshold I use for regular old backstory.

I may get a lot of reader comments along the lines of "What the hell is going on in this story!"