What I find works best is to NOT obsess about starting at the beginning and crafting that ultimate first sentence. Watch "Throw Momma from the Train." The author spends the entire movie stuck because he can't figure out if he should begin his novel with "The night was hot" or "The night was humid." That can often be what happens. Instead, gather up scenes. Think of a key scene that feels powerful to you from early in your story. Delve into it. Don't worry about it being perfect right now. This book can be tweaked countless times before you're done. The idea is just to start playing with those characters. Play with how they relate to each other. Explore the way they talk.
If you have another scene that stands out, write that. You don't need to have everything connect right now. You are exploring the characters. Breathe life into them. See what makes them tick.
Once you have a few scenes, think about the overall story. Where would you like it to begin and end? You don't need exact thoughts here - just a general idea is good enough. Go to that beginning moment. Think about these characters that you've been writing about. How would they behave in that beginning scene? How would they react to what's going on? Again, don't worry about crafting it "just right" - instead, get that feeling and movement written down. It's like you're working on a painting and this is the initial pencil sketch. You can always erase or paint over. You are laying the framework.
Move forward. When you reach one of those scenes you had from before, try writing it fresh. Does the scene lay out differently now that you've taken more of a journey with your characters? Do they talk in a different way and move in a different direction than you first thought? That often happens, and that's great! That's a sign that your characters are coming to life.
The key is to just write. It won't be perfect on the first pass and that's fine. It just needs to be a starting point. Keep writing a little each day, and over time it will add up!
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