If you’re beginning a new story, you need to figure out three things at the start.
First, where does your story start?
It doesn’t start with the weather or a prologue, giving six to ten pages of back story.
What is the inciting incident that starts your protagonist on his/her journey?
Was someone he/she loved killed? Is he/she out for revenge?
Was something valuable stolen he/she must recover?
Why is it his/her responsibility to reclaim it?
What special skills (if any) does the protagonist have to help him/her complete their task?
What kind of baggage is he/she carrying around? (Guilt over the death of someone?)
Maybe he/she made a fatal mistake that haunts him/her?
It might be a lack of belief in himself/herself)
This is an internal struggle that will make him/her hesitate at critical moments causing him/her and other problems throughout the story.
Second, It’s important to figure out your ending.
How does your protagonist complete his/her journey and how does he/she overcome the internal problem he/she faced at the beginning?
What changes have occurred in your protagonist’s character by the end of your story? He/she has to change.
Every journey has a beginning and an end. You head for work. You begin at home and end at your place of employment. If you’re unemployed and heard for work you will wind up driving around with no destination.
It’s the same if you don’t know the ending of your story. Your characters will wander around and around and never conclude.
What many authors do is write a rough draft of their ending. This gives you a mark to aim for. Remember, I said, a rough draft. I promise you will change it at least twice by the time you finish your novel. Having this target keeps helps you move forward.
In my five-book series, The MacKenna Saga, I planned to marry off my two principal characters, Kalen and Mayla by the first half of the first book. When I got to that point, I felt that didn’t work, so I tried to use that scene at the end of book two. That was a no go. I realized the best place for this scene was at the end of book five. I wrote it and tweaked it over twenty times as things in the other stories developed. I kept writing because I was excited to get my characters to that last scene. It was fun to write and reread when I felt I was losing focus. Also, that final version in no way resembled my first draft.
Third: You need a hook.
A hook is an opening line or chapter that pulls your readers into your story and keeps them turning the pages.
In Sleep till Noon: A Novel by Max Shulman. The opening line is the first chapter,
“Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into my groin and I was off on the greatest adventure of my life!”
Now that’s an opening line and an inciting incident all wrapped up in one. That would and did make readers continue to turn the page.
I hope these three suggestions will help jump-start your next novel.