For most beginning writers the biggest mistake they make is starting their story in the wrong place. This is after the manuscript is completely written. Finish it first than analyze the beginning. Write it, finish it, put is aside. Now and only now are you ready to start editing.
With fresh eyes take a critical look at your first scene. Does it really start off right? Does it express the theme or at least hint at the idea of the main plot? Is it the inciting incident? Is it back story? Is it slow?
The first scene has a lot to do. It must first and foremost hook the agent/editor, which in turn will hook the reader once it makes it to print. As a writer you only get one shot at this. Everyone (agent, editor, and reader) has busy lives. They will read only the first little bit before making a decision. Will I buy/represent this book? Will I keep reading? If you are lucky, you get a couple of paragraphs, if you are lucky.
This is not the place for back story. This is not the place for a slow scene. This is not the place to give lots of exposition. This is the place to hit them and hit them hard.
The inciting incident needs to be important, exciting and extremely well written. In other words- Action!
Writers no longer have the option of a slow beginning. Our society is very fast paced. A book has to compete with TV, the internet, video games, texting, etc., for those precious moments of free time. These other medium are instant, motion in motion, in other words- action. Research has shown that less people are reading.
So in order to capture the attention of the audience (agent/ editor or reader) the beginning must move.
And on top of all of this, the beginning has to set the tone of the story. It has to establish the theme of the manuscript. It has to introduce the ordinary world to the reader so that when the main character starts on their adventure, the reader is along for the ride.
It is too much to ask for such a small part of the story? No. It just means that it will take lots of hard work. Never think that your first opening scene, in your first draft, will remain the opening scene. Most are cut because they aren’t the right place to start and they don’t do everything that the opening requires.
So write, write, write. Then cut, cut, cut. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Nobody said this was going to be easy.