Whether you’re writing a picture book, early reader or a YA novel, the opening sentences and paragraphs of your story are perhaps the most important parts of your book. If you don’t grab your readers’ interest in those opening lines, you’ll lose them. Many editors won’t read past the first two paragraphs if it doesn’t pull them in. The bottom line is you have to have a strong opening for your story to succeed.
A lot of factors can work together to create a strong opening; a fresh voice, a feel-like-you’re-there setting, and an intriguing conflict. Many might argue which of these is more important than the others in regards to story beginnings, but if you don’t introduce conflict in the first few sentences or paragraphs, you’ll have a hard time holding your reader’s interest. You need to let the reader know right up front what problem or problems your hero is facing or has to deal with. That doesn’t mean that you have to reveal the whole plot at this point, it means you introduce some important aspect of the conflict that the plot builds on.
Look at some of your favorite stories and see how early the conflict is introduced. Is that what pulls you in? What else about a story’s beginning pulls you in? What do you think makes for a strong opening?