By C. LaRene Hall
The last class I attended on Friday at the writers conference was taught by Lisa Mangum. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and she gave me many good ideas.
How memorable is the first line?
The harsh truth – editors care so much about the first line that they will make a decision on that first line – your first sentence should be the greatest thing you have ever written. Please do not paint yourself into that corner or books would only be one sentence long.
What can you do for your first line? The first page is important, but not necessary the first line. Editors will usually read the first page. Beginings are hard for everyone.
1. Do start with a prologue if your story needs it. Prologue moves the plot – the pros of a prologue. Prologues can be good. Don’t be afraid of them. They can help set the mood, tone, or theme of your book; Please don’t treat it as a place to dump your back story or clog it with exposition. Is this strong enough to do it’s job or should this be the first chapter. The shorter it is the better.
2. Showcase something special about your story on the first page. Allow your character to be heroic. Find some instance where he can exhibit a good quality to show your character. Hint at a mystery yet to come. Reveal strong voice. Strong voice on first page they will turn the page. Extend invitation to reader to continue to read.
3. Do review your first page after writing your last page.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you finish reading a book? I often go back to see where it all began. By waiting to revise your first page until after you have finished writing your last page, you’ll be able to see clearly, what needs to be changed.
5. Do you think about your book as a whole. Your book is more than the pages in it. Consider the packaging as well. What’s the first thing you read in a book? Title? Author? Jacket copy? Endorsements? Do you read the first line of chapter one?
6. Prepare them to love your book.
7. Covers are important.
8. Do pay attention to your first page.
9. Don’t try to tell your whole story in the first line. Don’t rush it.
10. Don’t start in the wrong spot – start on the day in the story when everything changes. If you start the action too soon, you might end up with too much exposition.
11. If you start the action too late, you might end up missing the heart of the story.
12. Don’t obsess about the rules – rules are made to be broken. Start with what is going to pull the reader in. Do what is right for your story. Don’t feel pressured. Take a break. Set it aside and write something else. Gve yourself permission to move past the first page. Move past anything you are stuck at. You can come back to it later.
13. Don’t stress the job. Your first sentence is to make the reader read the second sentence.
I think all of these ideas are great and hope to someday become a better writer by listening to her good advice.