My goal is to improve the editing job on this writing post over the one from last Monday. I know that's a convoluted sentence, but scroll down to last Monday's post and follow the comment trail. That whole thing was convoluted, so why should this opening be different?
Anyway . . . onward to the meat of today's post. Substitute soy if you're vegan.
We start a story or a novel with some idea that's new and fresh to us. Sometimes we don't get too far along before we change that first sentence. I've only written one first sentence in a short story or novel that I didn't go back and change.
That sentence was: It was Charlie Merrill's turn to die.
The title of the story was "Tom, Dick, and Charlie," and it was published in the now-defunct HandHeldCrime. I remember it because it's been the only time so far I haven't changed the opening line once I wrote it.
The opening line is the most important one in the entire piece. For that reason, I try to make it the best I can. Sometimes I finish a piece and still go back and tinker with the opening. When I get it right, bells ring, lights go off and there's do doubt. I know that's the line.
Does that happen with every opening line for me? Every FINISHED opening line?
Sadly, no. But I try to make it happen. I try to make every opening line the best one yet.
Because for every word, every sentence that doesn't grab the reader the chances multiply that you'll receive a pass from an agent or editor. When that happens, no one will read your work.
Your opening line may not be the the best one you've ever written, but it needs to be the best you can write for that particular story. It needs to hold intrigue and promise. It needs to set the stage. It needs to propel the reader to the next sentence.
"Good enough" isn't good enough for opening lines. Opening lines need all the spark and sizzle you can give them. All the pizzazz you can muster. And still fit the story.
Nobody said this writing gig was easy. But this is what we do. Writers write.
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Yes, I know that last week I wrote about the pitfalls of using the 'it was' construction.
Yes, I know the only opening line I've never changed is an 'it was' construction.
I also said be aware of when you use it. Don't overuse it. Sometimes, it works.
And the same with 'it.'
That's my story and I'm sticking to it :)