|Start your book by grabbing the reader's interest. This opening|
line works only for comedic works such as fairy-tale parodies.
Give people a reason to bother reading. Better yet, make it so they've just got to know what happens next. If the book weren't already famous, then a story about a guy who suffers from insomnia and eats breakfast wouldn't seem worth my time.
Two openings I do like: "In ninety minutes, Wilkie would die" (Ray Flynt: Unforgiving Shadows) and "This time there would be no witnesses" (Douglas Adams: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency).
Next, establish motivation and conflict. As early as you can, you'll want to answer these questions:
- Who is the main character?
- What do they want?
- Why can't they get it?
Your story, of course, will proceed with the main character's attempts to get what they want in spite of whatever stands in their way. It's important for your main character to take an active role. Passive characters who just watch things happen aren't nearly as exciting or fulfilling to read about as the ones who struggle to overcome their circumstances.
Then you'll want to complicate the problem. This usually happens about one-third of the way through. In many books, the main character's problem seems about to be solved at this point, but then the bottom falls out and the stakes are raised.
This middle part is where most beginners fail. Without good plotting, the story sags and the reader is obliged to slog through the muck until things become interesting again near the end. Or more likely, they'll just abandon the book and tell their friends, "It was interesting at first, but then it got boring."
About two-thirds through, your character will start to make progress in overcoming all that trouble you've thrown at them.
At the end of the book, they'll get what they've been wanting all along. Or maybe they'll discover that what they wanted doesn't exist or they don't want it after all. In any case, the story should give the reader a satisfying sense of closure.
One more thing: unless you're writing a novella, you're going to need some subplots. These are story threads that run alongside your main plot and make the book feel richer and more real. They follow the same pattern as the main plot (blocked goal, complication, resolution) and play a supporting role. In the end, the main plot and all the subplots will come together into one great resolution.
If you're getting ready to write your book, or if you're stuck in the middle of one that has lost all its energy, try using this time-tested method for how to plot a novel.