Thursday, November 3, 2011

The ABC's of Middle Grade: B is for Beginning

The beginning of any book is key, but if you don't grab middle grade readers by the bull's horns with your book's beginning, they won't stick it out. It's that simple. So--because we don't want B to stand for Boring--the beginning of a middle grade book is the place where you absolutely, positively must hit the bull's eye. Your book's beginning is its building block.

Okay. Now that I've totally overdone the B alliteration, let's get down to business. Sorry. Couldn't resist. But really, what is the recipe for a great beginning? To me, that's sorta like asking, "What makes a best seller?" There isn't one, pat answer, but I'm asking it anyway: What makes a great beginning?

If you've read any of the other posts in my Alphabet Series (follow the label "abc's of mg"), you know my motivation for writing these posts is this: I'm readying a middle grade manuscript for querying. And I'm not in a hurry to do that; querying is still MONTHS away, but I am concerned with making my manuscript the best it can be before I do that. More B alliteration. Oops. Although I've never queried anything yet, I do know you usually send five to ten pages of the BEGINNING of your story along with your query letter. That tells me my beginning Must. Be. Awesome.

Let's discuss: What makes a beginning awesome?

12 comments:

  1. As I have said, I think your first sentence is awesome, and I know there's a lot of weight on that first sentence. I always worry my beginnings are weak. It is VERY HARD to do. *sigh*
    That's why we keep working at it, all of us, and supporting each other. :)

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  2. I say "B" is for "boom" right at the beginning. Of course that's totally me and what gets me going when reading a book.
    I sort of expect beginnings to be surprising, or intriguing, or puzzling, or even plain odd.
    Does it mean I'm against slow a beginning that's full of future mayhem promises? Nope. :D

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  3. Very true - so much pressure to have the perfect beginning - for agents, editors, and readers to continue. I've been watching my 9 year old daughter recently - there are some wonderful books I've recommended to her, but she won't stick it out if the beginning doesn't grab her.

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  4. Beginnings: Raise questions. Make me worry. (It doesn't have to be wham! bang! biff! mayhem!--but I do have to be intrigued.)

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  5. I'd say a beginning needs to orient the reader to a character in a place. It needs to be pretty simultaneous with the inciting incident. It really, really needs to not confuse.

    Personally, I am impatient with first sentences that try too hard. They make me roll my eyes.

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  6. Great post and comments. The first sentence does have to grab you and something besides setting has to happen on the first page.

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  7. Great series, Barbara!

    I like what Michael said - "make me worry." Yup! Whether it's about something funny, scary, adventurous, sad...that will lead a reader on. Nicely put.

    And I know this word is used a lot, but voice - that voice on the first page, of the main character, or of the narrator, but a voice that makes the reader want to settle in and stay a while.

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  8. The Beginning, yes definitely must grab the MG reader. I agree with Anne, the voice of the main character is what needs to pull the reader in. If they like and are interested in the main character, then they will continue to read.

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  9. Oh! Each of you gives me a unique way to analyze my beginning. So appreciated!

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  10. Good that. A great beginning to me, not only hints at great characters and plot but really pulls me in with tone...Hunger Games, Wimpy Kid, etc.

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  11. For me B is for the Beautiful character that pulls you in and makes you care what is going to happen next.

    Also...and this works in middle grade too...B can be for Beautiful setting that makes you go...WHOA I want to be there too.

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  12. John Wilson has a great posting on how books for boys should always begin with an explosion (http://www.johnwilsonauthor.com/page4/page4.html), and I have to say that this very often works!

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