One of the biggest mistakes I see in submissions is the book starts in the wrong place. Either you’ve filled it with backstory and nothing is happening, or you’ve started too deep in the action and I have no clue what’s happening.
Too Much Backstory
Too much backstory is probably the most common problem. You’re steeped in a conversation or flashbacks or even a scene that really doesn’t matter so that you can tell us about everyone and everything before anything happens.
When I read a book I want to get into the heart of the story. That means that whatever your pitch is, the book is taking me there very early on. If you’re writing about a woman recovering from a failed marriage, I don’t need 50 pages of the failed marriage. I need to know what’s happening now.
An exception is if the failed marriage timeline also has action that takes me through the book. If it’s only getting me to the actual point of the book it’s not working.
This is the time when I remind you how writing your query and pitch while writing the book can help keep you on track.
Too Much Action
We’re often told that every book starts with the action, but as I’ve stated at other times, that’s a misnomer. Every book starts in an active place, but not necessarily in the middle of a gunfight.
Dropping the reader (that’s me) into heavy action without any concept of who, what, why, or where, only leaves me scratching my head. When we say start with the action, we mean don’t start with your character waking from a dream or driving a car, but get us the point and help us get to know them while we’re there.
A lot of times I think writers make these mistakes because they’re still trying to figure out the characters and story themselves. That’s fine, just go back later, when you know more, and fix them.