how to start a novel

Dazzle your readers with a brilliant first impression

Are you struggling with writing a novel opening that truly shines, hooking your readers from the start?

Crafting a compelling beginning can be an intimidating task, filled with uncertainties about whether you’re hitting the mark. As a fiction writer, you understand the critical role of the first few pages—it’s where your readers get engrossed in the story or put the book aside.  

If you’re tired of second-guessing whether your opening has that special sparkle, it’s time to explore the First Pages Quick Fix Clinic, a self-paced course offering an insider’s perspective on how an editor assesses a manuscript’s opening scene.

first chapter of a novel tips

Many dedicated fiction writers pour their hearts into an opening scene, yet a persistent doubt hangs over them. Something feels “off,” but they can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. These misgivings can cause a roadblock, hindering the creative process. How do you push forward with writing when the first chapter doesn’t quite click?

The First Pages Quick Fix Clinic: Revising for Powerful Opening Pages is for fiction authors eager to:

✨See professional editing in actionGain firsthand insights into how editors meticulously analyze and refine opening scenes.

✨Overcome common pitfallsIdentify and conquer issues that might be affecting not just the first pages, but the entire manuscript.

✨Develop keen editorial judgment—Sharpen self-editing skills and implement effective strategies that breathe life into a story. 

✨Boost confidence and clarityFeel empowered to dive into your revisions with a new perspective.

✨Enjoy flexible, affordable learningExplore a self-paced learning experience that fits into your schedule and budget.

how to write an opening scene

Testimonials for First Pages Quick Fix



Any editing seems difficult and daunting, but with Stacy’s simple-to-follow tips and tricks, I feel more in control. Along with her explanations and examples in this course, my attitude toward editing has been transformed and it now feels like a fun writing exercise. This course helped me understand why, in addition to the characters, setting and descriptor (show not tell) words are so important to capture your readers’ attention. I loved this short course that focused on powerful editing tools. Heather



This is possibly the area I struggle with mostknowing where and how to start, and inserting a hook. I REALLY liked that you discussed opening chapters of aspiring writersincluding merather than just showcasing amazing published authors. You concentrated on how to get from HERE to THERE. I saw the impact of the changes you suggested. Little things make SUCH a difference.” Judy Broad


I had an Insight About where to Start

It was helpful knowing how an editor looks at a scene. I had an insight about where to start the opening scene of my work in progress. I found the courage to jump past the backstory. Now that I’ve seen it, it seems so obvious, but I have been driving myself crazy trying to decide the first sentence. Janis

What you’ll get inside the course

✨Written lesson packed with invaluable tips for creating compelling opening pages

✨Cheat sheet recap so you don’t miss any key insights

✨Critique library of nine, 750-word opening scenes representing a variety of genres, from cozy mystery and romantic suspense to science fiction and historical fiction. Each critique contains in-line editorial comments, revisions through Track Changes, and a short editorial letter so that you can learn through examples.

✨40-page, downloadable ebook to easily digest the critiques

✨30-minute recorded video showcasing more editorial insights that can be applied to your own pages

✨Lifetime access to the course materials

Hello! I’m Stacy.

Stacy Juba

I’m a fiction author, freelance developmental editor, and the creator of online courses for writers. Through Shortcuts for Writers, I help fiction and creative nonfiction writers of all levels streamline the writing and editing processes, carve out time for their goals, and maintain a positive mindset.

As an editor, I can tell a lot from your first pages. They serve as the initial glimpse into your characters and storyline, offering insights into your writing style and whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or seasoned author. The technique issues observed in your opening pages usually recur throughout the entire manuscript.

That’s why I created the First Pages Quick Fix Clinic, a comprehensive guide to refining opening scenes, understanding common challenges, and brainstorming solutions. 

By examining marked-up pages with detailed edits and comments, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn’t so that you can apply these principles to your own manuscript. Together, let’s unravel the secrets of captivating openings!

Follow my simple 3-step framework to opening scene success

Learn the fundamentals

Get a solid foundation in mastering magnetic beginnings

Explore the critique library

Study 9 in-depth sample critiques from a pro editor

Evaluate your opener

Apply the expert tips to your own first pages and hook your readers

Testimonials for my courses and editing service



“I learned more than expected in such a short period of time. I found the material easy to comprehend and helpful in ways I wasn’t expecting. It has left me eager to go through my current WIP and fix a few issues that were pointed out. Will definitely be recommending this mini-course.” Maegan Fielder


BREAKs Down Editing

This class not only taught me how to break down editing into manageable steps, but also how to think differently about my work during the process. The latter is the hardest part.” Fox Haddock


precisely what I needed

Thank you, Stacy, for your professional and in-depth evaluation of my work. I’m so glad I found you. As a fledgling writer, your editing services have been an invaluable resource for me. The educational links you provided as well as your helpful and encouraging suggestions are precisely what I needed to help make my little story blossom into its full potential.” Joan Carney


a true professional

Your comments are great, Stacy! I’m impressed with your insights and ability to not only identify areas in need of rework, but to come up with strategies for improvement. I appreciate the resource links you include as well. You are a true professional and obviously an authority at your craft. I consider myself lucky to receive such valuable feedback.” Kevin Schwartz


blown away

I’m blown away. You touched on some things I thought were weaknesses (e.g., character development) and brought up a whole bunch more that will ultimately strengthen this book. I am very fortunate to have your expertise and input.” David Neuner

Are you ready to go from confusion to clarity?

book editing course

You're protected by the Shortcuts for Writers No-Hassle Guarantee

First Pages Quick Fix comes with a 100% money-back guarantee, so your purchase is risk-free. There’s a good reason my clients and students call me generous, professional, enthusiastic, and insightful. I put tons of time and effort into creating my courses and stand behind everything I teach.

I’ve had a passion for writing and reading my whole life, and I love working with kindred spirits who have stories to tell. I want to help you tell the stories burning inside you and get you closer to your goals. I truly believe First Pages Quick Fix is an incredibly useful tool, and I guarantee it is a high-quality resource.

Ask for a refund within 7 days if you don’t think the course is everything I promised, let us know why it didn’t meet your expectations, and we will grant your request. Please note this refund policy does not cover a change of mind. If you request a refund, we will ask you for feedback on how the course didn’t meet your expectations, so we can improve our marketing messaging in the future.

Have a question before ordering? Let me help.

Q. Will my first pages get critiqued during this course?

A. This is designed to be a self-paced course, not a group program, which means your first pages won’t be critiqued as part of the clinic. However, I’ve included critiques of nine manuscripts from generous authors who permitted their work to be featured as examples. The aim was to provide valuable insights without making the course a group coaching program or membership, keeping it budget-friendly for everyone. If you’re eager for personalized critiques, feel free to explore my editorial services. Plus, if you’re part of my mailing list, you’ll be among the first to know about any future programs that might include critiques.

Q. Who will benefit the most from this course? Is there any genre it isn't recommended for?

A. This course is designed to benefit fiction writers across various genres, including but not limited to mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, suspense, paranormal, women’s fiction, literary fiction, young adult, and middle grade. It will also benefit writers of creative nonfiction, such as memoir. Writers in these categories can extract valuable tips and apply them to their own work, addressing common issues found in various writing styles.

However, it will not be as relevant for writers of books intended for very young children, such as picture books or early readers, as these genres have distinct conventions. 

Q. What happens once I purchase?

A. Purchases will be made through the Shortcuts for Writers Thrivecart Learn platform. You will be directed to set up a password and will be granted access to the classroom, where you will find the lessons, videos, and downloads.

Q. Can I share this course with my writer friends or clients?

A. You’re welcome to share a link where they can buy the course. You can even join the affiliate program and get a commission on sales. However, you may not share your purchase or distribute copies of the First Pages Quick Fix content with anyone else who has not yet purchased it. You can read the full Terms & Conditions here.

By downloading, printing, or otherwise using our products or content for personal use, you in no way assume any ownership rights of the content—it is still company property. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of any materials found in the program or content shall constitute infringement.

 Get instant access to. . .

✨Written lesson packed with invaluable tips for creating compelling opening pages

✨Cheat sheet recap so you don’t miss any key insights

✨Critique library of nine, 750-word opening scenes representing a variety of genres, from cozy mystery and romantic suspense to science fiction and historical fiction. Each critique contains in-line editorial comments, revisions through Track Changes, and a short editorial letter so that you can learn through examples. 

40-page, downloadable ebook to easily digest the critiques

✨30-minute recorded video showcasing more editorial insights that can be applied to your own pages

Lifetime access to the course materials


Clear and Helpful

“The course helped me with things I needed to incorporate to make the opening more concise. It was clear and helpful. Susan



The course helped me plan and recognize my mistakes, and the examples gave me a reference point to use. Stacy had real-life examples from other authors, which was helpful. In the final lesson, there were visual examples of several genres, which helped me see where I could make changes to make my novel stronger, more transparent, and more engaging.” Ardith


Clear and Concise

“You were clear, concise, and the info was helpful. Jacquetta

how to write opening lines

Leave your uncertainties behind and embrace the guidance of a seasoned editor. Join this self-paced course to discover powerful techniques for crafting enticing openings.

Disclaimer: Shortcuts for Writers doesn’t promise any specific results as a result of purchasing this training (eg – you have to put in the work) and any results, testimonials, or figures quoted on this page are not intended to imply guaranteed financial gains. I present testimonials and insights about other people’s experiences with my program for purposes of illustration only. They are not intended to represent or guarantee that current or future clients will achieve the same or similar results; rather, these testimonials represent what is possible for illustrative purposes only.

Privacy Policy: We will occasionally track your web activity on pages owned by Shortcuts for Writers and we will occasionally send you emails related to the course material. In all circumstances, your private data is kept confidential and you can unsubscribe from our emails at any time (except for transactional emails necessary to fulfill our contractual duties).

Terms & Conditions: You have 7 days starting the day after payment is received to preview the course material before your refund period expires. If you request a refund after the 7-day period, your request will be denied. Please read the full terms and conditions for this course here.



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