From NYT bestselling author and former writing professor Dave Farland:
When you sit down to write a story or the opening to a scene, you’re presented with a problem: how to begin? As a contest judge, I see too many tales that don’t work—right from the very first sentence.
The most common problem that I see arises from “hesitation.” You as an author haven’t figured out how to start your story. You haven’t brainstormed a scene yet, so you just begin writing in the hopes that it will turn into something. Perhaps you’ll tell me about the character, “Gunther Harlan was ten years old.” Maybe you’ll start with a setting: “The day began as any other day.” Or perhaps you’ll start with a conflict. “Gunther sat on a rock, panting from exhaustion. How did I ever get into this mess? he wondered.”
Starting a tale with any one of those three elements is okay, but if you spend two pages telling your reader about Gunther, or inventing the setting, or if you have Gunther wondering how he got into trouble, you’re wasting the reader’s time.
Most often, when I see this hesitant beginning, it’s obvious to me that you’re “ramping-up.” I suspect that the real story will start a few pages in, but if I’m judging the story for a contest, I will have to reject the story long before I find the real beginning, the place where your character and conflict and the action all merge so that the story comes to life.
As an author, it’s your job to create an opening that works, to get beyond that hesitation. If you find yourself spilling ideas onto paper in the opening of your tale, for example if you’re brainstorming your character until the story takes off, that is all right. But when your story does take off, it’s your job to cut out all of the garbage.
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One piece of advice that you will hear from professional writers over and over again is, “When I finish my novel, that’s when I know what the story is truly about. So the first thing that I do is go back and throw away the opening, then rewrite it, with the ending in mind.”
Link to the rest at David Farland