Looking at a blank page is always daunting- mostly when my head is spinning with ideas but they will not come out in a coherent manner. At least for me, putting down that first word (or sentence) is sometimes an excruciating process of forward, reverse and pause for me.
It may be easy for a lot of you to start a novel, or a short story. For me, it is anything but straightforward and stress free. I have a little annoying voice in my head that says (in a whiney loud voice) “Readers will give you one page – or a few at the very most, to see if they like (buy, read) your book or not. Make it perfect – or else!” Or else what you may ask- doomed forever- never able to write again or get readers? I am not sure, but I bet it’s really bad if that first chapter doesn’t capture the reader’s attention. Moreover, I do not want to take that chance of a mediocre first chapter.
Therefore, the pressure (admittedly self-imposed) to make a perfect first sentence in the (hopefully) near flawless opening chapter is enormous. The first line’s impact can be monumental and memorable – setting the mood for the entire book. Who doesn’t remember the opening line of Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Okay maybe I am putting too much burden on myself. In addition, I am in no way on the same superstar writer extraordinaire level as Dickens- so I should just chill and get on with my writing – right?
I rewrote my first chapter of my debut novel LIQUID LIES – no less than two
dozen times. Often scrapping everything and starting again with a blank page. Yes, its sounds like torture and a waste of time, but that is what I did. To me, it had to ‘feel right’ from the first word.
This brings me to the reason I wrote this post in the first place. I have set lofty writing goals for 2013- that include completing three novels in 12 months. Even with my entire clan of children home for the holidays, and my husband finally able to take some vacation time- I thought this “vacation time” would be a get way to jump start book one of my trilogy. Yes, I rolled my eyes too, but I want to try to get at least the first chapter done before the New Year.
However, a chapter begins with a sentence.
And a sentence begins with a word.
I am still staring at a blank page, struggling with what to do next. I have all the ideas, most of the plotlines, characters, and so on in my head. But that first sentence- well – nothing so far.
Big old zero.
So, what I want to ask all of you is, how do you begin a novel? What are your thoughts on that first sentence/chapter? How much “weight” do you put on your first chapter having to capture the reader and be great, or do you not feel this way?
The Best of Writing-That-First-Word Wishes — Lois Lavrisa