TEN THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE STARTING YOUR NOVEL...
1. Have an important goal for your hero (or heroine). Let the reader know from the start what that character wants and why. Know your characters from the onset. All of them.
2. Establish motivation. Always let the reader know WHY your hero is doing whatever it is he's doing--especially if it's not a so-nice thing for him to do. You always want your reader to sympathize with your hero or heroine , therefore make the reasons behind his or her actions those the reader can live with and will accept as rational behavior.
3. Decide on your main conflict; but to do so, you must have already established your character's goal . Whatever stands between that character and that goal is what provides the greatest conflict.
4. Decide on the main viewpoint before writing a single word. Which of your characters can most effectively tell this story? Never describe anything the viewpoint character can't see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.
5. Start in the middle of the action, or in the middle of a turning point in the main character's life, then if you need to, retrieve the past in bits and pieces. Don't try to set up the story. Don't start with "showy" writing. Flowery writing that sets up the story is borrrring! The reader doesn't care as much about what caused the hero to land in what appears to be an impossible situation as much as she/he does how the character manages to get out of it. Get things going, maybe even provide a solution to the first of many problems, THEN go back and explain some of what has gone before. By then the reader is hooked.
6. As soon as you get the story going, give your hero choices, difficult choices, and let him make mistakes along the way. Big mistakes. Perhaps even fatal mistakes.
7. Allow plenty of room for character growth. No character should remain unchanged at the end of your story. Not even the bad guys.
8. Never open a book with reflection. Never start with a character musing about the past or with his reaction to something that just happened but the reader didn't see. Start with action. Start in the thick of it.
9. Always start the book with the main character as your focus. Make him the center of the opening action. The readers identifiy best with the first character they meet.
10. Most importantly, know that first chapters are never written in stone. Get it as right as possible then move on, knowing that first chapter can and probably should be changed later on. During those all important rewrites.