“Starting a new book can be paralyzing,” says Lisa Cron in her opening statement for her online class “How to Nail Your First Three Pages” and she couldn’t have stated it better. Launching into writing a new novel can be a daunting task, but Cron makes it a little easier by identifying 6 elements of writing that must be conveyed in the first three pages.
The Voice Inside Your Head
Before Cron launches into the six elements, she points out the damaging voice that’s in our head telling us we aren’t good enough. It’s hard to ignore the voice, but try to. This critical voice is stopping your vulnerability in writing and creates nothing to hook the reader into the story, that’s all up to you.
How to Nail Your First Three Pages: Element 1
The first element Cron talks about is giving the reader a glimpse of the big picture. The overarching problem needs to begin on page one. A reader won’t stick around if we don’t receive some semblance of context, scope, and conflict on the first page.
The second element is that something must happen. Cron says that you need to set up your writing as “this is the first domino, and it’s all about to topple.” This initial conflict doesn’t have to be the main event, but something needs to happen so the readers wonder- what’s next?
The third element to consider is how does this event affect the protagonist? We need someone to root for, and if the protagonist isn’t introduced on the first three pages, we feel no connection to the writing.
The fourth element is about what your protagonist’s agenda will loosely be for the rest of the story. Why did this event happen now, and why does it affect the protagonist’s agenda in their life at this point?
Element five is what’s at stake? What does the protagonist have to lose if they do not meet their agenda’s needs? We have to give the readers a reason for the protagonist to embark on their journey.
The sixth element is how does the consequence move the story forward? Say on the first three pages we find out someone died. What now? Does the protagonist leave the funeral and go on with their day as normal? No. The event you set up at the beginning of the book has to lock your protagonist in the story. Without a protagonist, there is no villain and no one to root for. Without these elements, there is no story.
Cron eloquently compiles these six methods to ensure writers begin with a strong three pages. These are the most important parts of the book because it’s what draws readers in. A strong three pages can mean a strong book. Ignore, ignore, ignore the voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it and return to these elements of technique when you get dreaded writer’s block.
Really great advice! Thanks a lot!!
I noticed when started a new story or just going through the brainstorming phases of one, I have that voice telling me that my ideas or story is bad or not as good as so and so. Sometimes I hear the “well this is just a cheap version of ___’s story!” and I let myself get too far inside my own head. This was a helpful and eye-opening read!