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Think you’re ready to begin your novel? The new author is faced with a lot of tasks: introducing his world, his characters, and building his story. For most people, starting well is a struggle. This workshop will help guide you through the process of writing that difficult opening.

Many people would like to write a novel but don’t know where to start. In this course, you will learn how to write the opening of a novel, with emphasis placed upon how to write to a wide audience and how to set up the “promises” that a writer makes with this story.

The goal of this course is to help write, but not just to write haphazardly. You will learn how to focus all of your skills and knowledge as you work, so that you get the best possible early drafts of your work.

You will then write the first 50 pages (in standard manuscript format*) of your novel, and send them to David Farland for editing. You may send these pages all at once, or break them into a couple of chapters at a time.

This course has six main lectures that will help you organize your thoughts before you begin writing, and it also has several review lessons from the prewriting course, “The Story Puzzle,” the course “Writing Mastery 1,” and the course “Writing Mastery 2.”

While no classes are required before you begin Promising Starts, they would be very helpful, as would the book Million Dollar Outlines.

We recommend that before you begin writing, that you plan your novel carefully, and that you create an outline. In fact, we will have you create that during this course, and you will send it to Dave for review.

The lectures for this course include:

The Course Overview, which describes how the course will proceed.

Setting Writing Goals. In this lesson, Dave talks about the importance of setting writing goals before you ever begin to write, and divides these into various types. Many writers set productivity goals, promising to write ten pages a day for example, but never set goals for writing quality. Some writers set goals to win awards, win critical acclaim, or become bestsellers. Dave talks about how striving for such goals can lead you to write better.

Once you finish this lesson, Dave recommends that you set some goals for yourself, and begin planning how you will reach those goals.

Brainstorm Your Opening. Before you start writing, you must decide where to begin your story. Different types of stories require you to start in different places. For example, if you create a fascinating new fantasy world, you might want to start your manuscript by showcasing that world. So this video discusses several types of stories and suggests places where you might want to start with each opening.

Once you finish this lesson, you should begin planning your opening scene.

Lessons to review along with this section:

  • Nine Parts to a Story
  • Make Your Character Likeable
  • Characters: Conclusion
  • Types of Conflict
  • Vary Your Conflicts
  • Scene Settings
  • Setting Conclusion

Planning Your Novel. Some writers begin a novel with a very complex outline while others like to write by the seat of their pants. In this lesson, Dave discusses how various authors approach novels, and talks about the importance of keeping yourself open to new ideas while having at least a basic plan for your novel.

Lessons to review along with this section:

  • Plotting Beginnings
  • Dealing with Themes
  • Complications and Obstacles

When you finish this lesson, you should outline the basics of your novel, then send that outline to David Farland for review.

Writing Your Inciting Incident. In this video Dave talks about strategies for opening your novel, creating your setting, your characters, and then getting to the most important conflicts of your novel quickly.

The inciting incident should occur within the first ten percent of your novel, generally. When you finish this clip, consider what types of inciting incidents you will have for each character, plan the scenes that will lead to those incidents, and write the opening to your novel, where you introduce your characters, setting, conflicts, and themes.

Here are some review lessons to help you focus your skills as you begin to compose:

  • From Generalities to Specifics
  • Precision in Setting
  • Hooks

Your First Try/Fail Cycle. In the opening of any story, a character is confronted by a major problem and attempts to resolve it and either fails completely or fails in part. In this lesson, Dave talks about what happens after your character discovers a major problem, and then begins to struggle to overcome it. When a character is confronted with a problem, he may deny that he has a problem, struggle to escape from it, or come to face it. Dave talks about how you can not only have your character deal with the problem, but discusses strategies for deepening and broadening your conflicts.

After watching this video, plot your scenes from the end of the inciting incidents up through the first attempts to resolve major problems. Create a detailed plan on how to get through the planning stages of the conflict, the first attempt to resolve, tell us about the failure or partial success that occurs, and then detail what happens next as the characters struggle to handle their failure and bounce back.

Developing Your Story. In this lesson, Dave talks about writing scenes, and how you should focus on various types of changes that might take place in each scene. He also talks about how you can expand upon your characters, your world, and your conflicts with each succeeding scene.

This lesson helps you look toward the future of your novel, so that as you write, you’re aware of what will be coming later.

When you complete this lesson, you will continue writing your first draft, up to the first 50 manuscript pages. You should then review your work and send it to Dave for his critique and edits.