Thursday, February 5, 2009

Great first pages

First let me apologise for taking so long to get back to my blog. I had a weekend with my youngest brother a little while ago and we decided to write some songs (he is a great musician) and I have been flat out working on that project as well as my latest manuscript. I have not neglected my writing group though and this week we met and discussed the first pages of many novels.

Our group is very strong, we had a dozen people present on Wednesday night and there were a few apologies, so when we discuss topics like this we get a wide range of ideas and thoughts, which is the object of the exercise.

There are so many books in the world it is a big decision just to come up with two or three each to discuss and some people went for the classics, others went for books that had me reaching for dictionaries and googling terms used by midway through page one. When I read I prefer to read, not research but others loved the learning aspect of these books. I myself chose three very different books, all by large selling authors, as this is something I think we all want to achieve.

Raymond Chandler's Killer in The Rain was one I chose. His dialogue is so brilliant it describes the physical appearance of the character without him having to, and it entertains as it does so. His choice of names also is perfect and describes the character he is creating. In this book he introduces three characters on page one but one of them he only gives you his name. Violets McGee. In my mind that was all I needed to see the character in my head. There was also a descriptive sentence He looked like a bouncer who had just come into money, which I thought was concise but perfect way to het the man into the reader's head.

The range of books we talked about included The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King, Abarat, but we talked more about the way the title appears on the cover then we did about the first page, The Book Thief, Captain Corelli, Middlesex, The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and The Hopkins Manuscript, as well as many more.

It was a great way to learn what worked and did not work on the first page of a book, it also showed that there is not one formula to work to as readers all prefer something different to each other, and it also highlighted the usefulness of these types of writing groups.

We had two first nighters on Wednesday, one of whom was only now about to embark on his writing journey, and they came away from that with a lot of knowledge but also they gained confidence from talking to others and finding out that this dream we all have running around in our heads is in fact achievable.

Exercises like this are well worth doing so if you are in writers group get active and involved.

Good luck and good writing.

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