In an effort to make sure that I’m not writing something that’s already been done, I have been less selective in books I’ve read attempted to read lately. Before I started doing this, there was only one novel I had never finished: the colossally terrible Wuthering Heights, which I had always hailed as the worst book ever written because I couldn’t get past chapter five no matter how many times I tried. Well, it’s still one of the worst books declared a “classic” that has ever haunted bookshelves. Why is it and so many other books so perfectly wretched? It’s effing boring! One should not have to labor that long and still not give half a damn about the characters and their attempt at plot.
Write out all that crappy backstory to help you figure out your characters, but if your opening page (or opening chapters, God forbid) reads like a biography, I’m gonna throw your book across the room and contemplate some voodoo to perform on it that will involve dog poop. Make a little timeline of your plot, and put your “play button” where it actually gets interesting. Anything critical that the reader needs to know should be creatively revealed later.
For you visual people, I crafted this handy infographic (click to view larger):