Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Firsts and beginnings

Number One Son started his first day of pre-Kindy today, the very first rung of his educational ladder. Got me thinking about my first manuscript, which still hasn't progressed very far, and then to the book I'm reading at the moment, which begins with two introductions, one biography and a foreword. No less than 49 pages before one even begins the story. Hubby is an avid non-fiction reader, so he's quite used to that, but it isn't something a die-hard Fiction Chick comes across too often.

My own manuscript has been reworked countless times, usually starting at the beginning with each read-through (a very good place to start). So if my final chapter has been edited 10 times, then the first chapter has probably been changed hundreds. My first line though, has remained exactly the same as when I first put pen to paper on this, years ago. I don't even need to look it up now, I could probably recite the whole introductory paragraph word-for-word. First sentence is:
  • This past summer was a big one for me.
And it goes on about other 'big' stuff. Boobs included.

Taking a scan of some of the more recent* books I have read, I find first lines such as...
  • I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the ones where you have to run, run until your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.
  • All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.
  • I'd had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn't something you ever really got used to.
  • Hannah Willis was a second-year law student at Virginia, and everything that lay ahead of her seemed bright and promising – except, of course, that she was about to die in these dark, gloomy, dismal woods.
On reading this list now, and then re-reading my own first line, I am left wanting to change it. It has survived a zillion drafts, and I give it due credit for avoiding the delete button this long, but doesn't have the same 'wow factor' as the ones on my bedside table. Or perhaps I would be better served by not starting at the beginning after all, but by lifting a scene from a later chapter – something right in the thick of the action – and inserting it before my current beginning, to form a more intriguing new beginning.

Actually, it sounds like something that would be quite handy in real life.

*I was going to list my favourite books in this post, but as everything bar the last few months' worth is currently packed away in boxes, patiently awaiting the erection of some fabulous Ikea shelving, I chose to go with the ease of grabbing the most recent reads off the shelf nearby. I've been too slack to add these yet to the monstrous collection in the garage.

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