The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel

February 19, 2014 by No Comments

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel

After the visit of Allan Guthrie last night I thought we should continue that theme with this great post from Chuck Sambuchino on The Write Life about the Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel.

Taken from the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents, Chuck‘s post list quotes from a wide range of literary agents talking about their pet hates when it comes to the starts of novels. They cover everything from particular genres to how much description they like in their opening chapter. Below are a selection from Chuck‘s article, for the rest head over to The Write Life.


I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page one rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

Exposition and Description

I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress — with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves — sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

In Crime Fiction

Someone squinting into the sunlight with a hangover in a crime novel. Good grief — been done a million times.
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

In Romance

In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom — and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon — not admiring the view.
– Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency

Characters and Backstory

“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the plot. The character’s backstory stays with them — it’s in their DNA.”
– Adam Chromy, Movable Type Management

What is your pet hate when it comes to the start of a novel. Let us know below so we can avoid it when we are writing ours.

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