1. Avoid too much inner dialogue and information dumps.
Every book is mostly about the beginning. Think about it. No one will agent your book, or even buy it, if your beginning is boring. The main ways to dull your story is by starting it with inner dialogue and information dumps. Novice writers have a tendency to do this, because they are eager to give the reader background information, and the easiest way to do this is by “telling”. However, most good books “show” rather than “tell.” Once you can master this concept, your story will have much more narrative thrust and be on its way to captivating the attention of your readers (i.e. agents, editors, and yes, even the readers who may one day be deciding whether or not they want to take your book to the checkout counter/their Amazon cart!). Remember to avoid too much inner dialogue and information dumps throughout your entire book, not just in the opening. There are book reviewers out there who will quit a story if they lose interest halfway and publicly post it. I know, it’s a harsh world out there.
2. If a scene or conversation is not contributing to the plot, rewrite or delete it.
Many experienced authors and agents will tell you to not be afraid to “kill your darlings.” This means that even if you’ve spent a year organizing your plot, and you’ve become attached to certain characters or scenes, you must still be strong enough to delete them if they are not propelling the action in your story. Every word in your book must contribute to the overall action taking your book to its grand climax or the overall themes, and if anything is slowing the plot down or distracting from the direction of the book, readers will feel it. For a better experience, rewrite anything which is not shining brightly or doing its part. Your story will be much better for it, and in the writing world, you cannot mourn the loss of paragraphs for too long or you will never improve–at least not at a quick pace.
3. Keep the ending in mind.
Some writers claim their best work has been written when they can get on their computer and type away, letting themselves be swept away by the words and their imagination. While this may work for some, it is usually practical to have some type of ending in mind. If you are not sure where you’re going, you can’t be sure that you’re getting there in the best way. What does this mean? Well, take my advice from the previous step for example. How can you tell if something is detracting from your climax if you are not sure what your climax is? The only way you can tell what your climax will be is if you know what the ending will be. Maybe some will disagree, because you can throw in plot twists and your most exciting scenes and then figure out what will happen from there, but again–very challenging. You’ll have to work backwards to determine if what you wrote in the first half of the book aligns with what you ended up with.
4. Pretend you are the main character.
Pretending to be the main character is a great tip I read in Paula Munier’s book, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings. If your book was a movie, and your main characters were the actors and actresses, would they always be doing something, or would they be bored with their script? In other words, if you have too much inner dialogue, would your Angelina Jolie or Liam Neeson be content playing the roles in your book, or would they be stuck in a corner looking out the window talking about their past, their childhood, their feelings towards an ex, etc.?
Put yourself in the main character’s shoes and give them as much action as possible. Surround them with an interesting “cast”, great setting, and amazing journey.
5. Map out your plot.
This is probably the first place to start, but I made it my last tip, because some writers believe that mapping out their entire story ruins their creativity. I happen to like planning, but I also want to develop my story without too much structure before writing, so what I do sometimes is outline chapters. It gives me a general sense of where I’m going. Then, I come back to this map to ensure I have enough action. If I don’t, then I know my story idea is likely not marketable. Of course, there are writers out there who may be writing for themselves or to self-publish, and if that is the case, they do not have to worry about what agents or editors think, but if you want to see your book on a shelf, you need to meet this general structure and cover a high-concept idea for people to want to buy your book and then publish it.