Starting is sometimes the hardest part of writing your novel or short story. To begin, every story needs a problem/issue/question. This question or “problem” is what makes the reader what to turn the the page to find out more. Secondly, what is the main character’s motivation? What makes him to her (or it?) act or do things a certain way and how is this what drives your narrative forward? More importantly, what is it that connects the reader to the main character? You have to ask yourself if the reader will like or sympathize with the main character as much as you do. If not, consider what can be changed to make your protagonist be more interesting.
Now that you have a problem or question and an interesting main character, you need to hook the reader. Readers, and editors!, can tell if they want to keep reading a book after the first 2-3 pages. You need to draw the readers into the story and make them want to find out what happens next. In the mystery genre, it’s the whodunit or howdunit aspect of the piece takes keeps the reader turning pages. In fantasy, it’s the “where are we going from here?” aspect that catches the reader’s attention.
Next, it’s important to set the tone of the piece. Are you looking to write a genre mystery or a hard-boiled detective story? Whichever one you choose, it’s important to set the tone early and carry it through the entire work, regardless of length.
Lastly, it’s important to establish conflict early on. No reader or editor wants to want until the middle of the piece to finally locate the drama of the story. Any story that lacks drama falls flat into a boring sludge of meaningless characters going nowhere fast.