Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2013

Writing an Inside-Out Novel

writers in the storm cropped-3_waxing-storm-iii12

Over at  blog, Chuck Sambuchino who edits: The Guide to Literary Agents and the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and is a freelance editor, who help writers with critique query letters, synopses, book proposals, and novels, wrote an interesting article on how to start your novel. This is an excerpt. I am sure after reading this excerpt you will want to click the link at the end to read the whole thing.

A novel should go inside-out.

If this story were a novel and you wanted to get the audience’s attention, what would your first line or two be? I’d guess something like, “Harry’s knife cut through the ice from below. His eyeline ascended above the frozen water, and he could make out guard dogs in the distance even before the fog in his scuba mask cleared…”

From there, once the audience is hooked, slowly move outward, engineering the beats of the movie in reverse. The whole start to your novel could look like this:

once the audience is hooked, slowly move outward, engineering the beats of the movie in reverse. The whole start to your novel could look like this:

  1. Harry’s knife cuts through the ice / intrigue.
  2. Harry secretly emerges from the freezing water / danger.
  3. Mention of the guard dogs / more danger.
  4. Mention of the men with automatic weapons / more danger.
  5. Mention of the chateau (Harry’s desired destination).
  6. Mention of the nighttime.
  7. Mention of the snow, the reflection, the darkness, the beauty of an European countryside in the winter, etc. Perhaps here you would even mention that the location is actually Switzerland.

That’s how you take an opening and make it go inside-out. If you begin your novel with 2 paragraphs describing the trees and night and moonlight, then spend another 2 paragraphs describing the chateau and the yellow light and the winterscape, then the reading editor or agent will never even get to the semi-good part (the guys with guns) let alone the true “hook” line about the man/agent cutting through the frozen river on a secret mission.

Please check out the rest over at Writer’s in the Storm. They provide lots of good information on their blog.

Here is the link to Chuck’s blog.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Excellent post, Kathy!


  2. Oh, my gosh! This is extraordinarily helpful. It just makes it so clear. Thank you.


  3. Thanks for the shoutout of Chuck’s post, Kathy! All of us as WITS appreciate it. 🙂


    • Jenny,

      My pleasure! You have a very good blog at WITS. If any of you would like to be a guest blogger over here, I would love it. Keep in touch.



      • Thank you, Kathy! We’re honored. 🙂


  4. Kathy, this is one of your best posts ever, I think! 🙂 I love the tip on how to think when writing your opening 🙂 And, of course, the link to Chuck’s blog! I was only familiar with his stuff on agents.


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