Monday, April 14, 2014

Once Upon a Time by Denise Hunter

Hey writers, have you ever sat staring at a blank screen, wondering where to begin with your next project? Denise Hunter is here today with tips on getting started. Read on! ~ Annette

Once Upon A Time
By Denise Hunter

Starting a new writing project can be scary. When you open up that document there’s nothing there but a blank page, and you’re supposed to write words that will hold a reader’s attention for 300 pages. Sound daunting? I agree. Here are a few tips for those staring blindly at the blinking curser:

1. It’s easy to get hung up on the first sentence, on the first paragraph. They’re so important, says every writing book ever written. Yes, they are. My advice, don’t strain yourself on the opening sentences in the first draft. Just get the story started. (My husband advises “Once upon a time” but I know you can do better than that.)

2. Have some idea where you’re going. You don’t need a fleshed out road map, but you should be writing toward something.

3. At the very least, know what your protagonist wants and what’s standing in his/her way. This will drive the conflict.

4. Before you sit down to write, daydream options for the opening and choose where you want to start. I like to begin with a scene, not exposition, and most readers prefer that too.

5. Just get something down. If it’s awful or you chose to start in the wrong place, you can always scrap it later. At least it got you going.

Once you have your first draft finished, go back and look at the beginning. An opening of a story has many jobs. It should connect the reader with the protagonist, establish setting, set the tone of the story, and pique the reader’s curiosity.

Of all those jobs, the one I enjoy most is piquing the reader’s curiosity. When most beginners are starting out, they tend to pour all the information they know into the first chapter—that was me fifteen years ago. This is a sure way to kill your story from the get go.

Instead of dumping out everything you think your readers need to know, dole it out slowly, sprinkling in just enough to make them curious. This is what will keep them reading. If there’s a past event that’s causing your protagonist to behave oddly in the first chapter, your reader doesn’t need to know every detail of that event—yet. Hint at it with a line or two here and there, each time giving another clue. Save the full reveal for later in the book when the reader is invested and dying to know the whole story.

This takes some practice. How much do you hold back? How much do you tell and when? The best way to get a feel for this is to be aware of it when you’re reading others’ books.

When your opening is finished, find a critique partner and see if you got it right or if it needs some tweaking. 

Below is a link to the first chapter of Dancing with Fireflies, which released last month. See if you can spot the lines that pique your curiosity.


Dancing with Fireflies released March, 2014 from Thomas Nelson

Dancing with Fireflies

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.


DeniseHunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Barefoot Summer and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn’t writing she’s busy raising three heroes-in-the making with her husband.
You can learn more about Denise through her website or by visiting her FaceBook page at