I used to work as a Director in a London-based consultancy firm and my job – amongst other things – was to write a ton of reports for our clients. The process of running environmental projects isn’t too dissimilar from writing a book. Believe it or not they share similar phases: there’s a puzzle that needs solving (a real-life problem or a fictional story); you complete loads of research; map out the narrative; get the first draft down; discuss it with other people; edit like crazy; and complete the final document. The only difference with books is that you get to use your imagination considerably more. And dare I say it. It’s a little more fun…
As my agent reminded me, a first page has to do so many things, e.g. set the time and place, introduce the main character, set up their motivations/dreams/desires, start the action, allude to where the book is going, etc. It’s one of the hardest things to do, although thankfully it’s possible to do the best revision of the first few pages at the end of the writing process, when you can pull everything together. There are some useful tools to help.
Ex-literary agent Mary Kole is full of useful expertise on her frequently brilliant blog (kidlit.com) and I think this is one of the most interesting in regards to worldbuilding, entitled “Pimp your premise”. The gist is simple – if you spend most of the book building a world with a surprise ending, you’ve more than likely missed a trick. Much better to sell the world you’ve created up front, rather than hiding it. It’s great advice and you can find it here, although I’ve reproduced the entire article in full below.
This is a brilliant post by Paul Ashton on the BBC writersroom blog on how to re-write, covering openings, story structure and feedback. The full article is below but you can also read it here.