Tuesday, June 07, 2011

First things first: opening lines

I'm sure no sentence in any novel is tweaked, rewritten, twisted, pared down, built up, thrown out, reinstated, and in general, agonized over as much as the first line of Chapter One. (Look! I'm clairvoyant! I see scores of writers emphatically nodding their heads!)

As of yesterday, I've rewritten the opening sentence of my upcoming novel at least a hundred times. And while regular readers of this blog are aware of my sad tendency toward hyperbole, I assure you all that this time, I'm not exaggerating. Not one bit.

A hundred times, did I say? No, I'm very sure two hundred is closer to the truth.

I've been happy with the first line of this book dozens of times. But I've always awakened the next morning and thought, no, it's just not there yet, and tweaked it again. But today I've had a breakthrough. Today I liked it even more than I did yesterday morning, which was even more than I liked it the morning before that, and that never happens.

And no, it's not that I'm just sick of writing it and willing to settle. I'm happy with it. So I'm pausing just long enough to write this triumphant post, and then I'll get back to my editing.

This has been an extra-difficult first line to write because this book is a bit different from the four books I've written for Love Inspired. One of the main differences is that you won't see the hero and heroine meet in Chapter One, which is something Love Inspired editors insist on because market research has shown that's what their readers want. So if I'm going to throw you nice people that kind of curve, I'm going to have to engage you right from the start on such a deep level that if you notice at all, you won't stop reading.

Yep, that's a lot of pressure. I must begin weaving that magic from the very first sentence. But as I look at this sentence now, I'm thinking, yeah. This will do it.

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