Monday, March 16, 2009

The Opening

There have been many things said and written about openings and I do not want to open up any old wounds for my readers so I am going to be brief on this subject.

There is no point in me pretending I can sit at my PC for half an hour and give you the magic formula for openings. If I could I would be so busy writing great openings I would never have the time to write this blog. I have considered writing an opening for you that you could practice on and see where it took you, just as a writing exercise, but as I would be writing the opening in that instance all talk of that topic belongs to another day. Today it is your tun to think about openings.

My view on openings, whether I am writing or reading at the time, is simple. The first line is where it all begins and it needs to have that status. There is no point writing a humdrum first line as you give the necessary background to what is going to build into a really interesting opening if it means half the people who pick up your book in the bookstore put it down before they get to the good bits. The opening line needs to be either powerful, intriguing, leading or just plain brilliantly written. It may not end up being that important to the whole story, but it must grab the reader. Those who see it differently will say they don't care so much about the first line as people do not judge a book by it, and they are right in some cases. However it is the rest of the population who are not buying the book with the whimpy first line and I think you should be aiming for their interest as well.

So you have the great first line, what next? The opening paragraph of course. If the first line is great then this is the killer punch follow up. You may have the reader completely hooked by the end of it but in the end what you want is for them to be keen to read on. I would suggest you keep the pace up in the first page or two and pace can mean action, interest, intrigue or writing that draws you in because of its style or language.

If your opening can get your readers through the first chapter, at which point they hit a great hook as the last line of that chapter, many of your sins in the following chapters might be forgiven, at least in part.

The opening is also what you will give a potential publisher or agent and so it should, in the initial stages at least, be the most polished piece of work you have in your arsenal. If you get a chance with a publisher the odds are it will be your only chance with that publisher so make it count.

The opening of the manuscript you are now working on might just be the thing that makes you the next international best selling author, so do not rush it. Let it grow, nurture it, taking it out for a walk with friends and let them admire it or tell you why they would not own such a pet. Listen to what everyone has to say, consider their comments, and then act on those that show an understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

Think of your opening as a daughter. Would you rush her off to be married, or would you want her to wait until she was ready?

There is so much more to say about openings, but I will wait until you have thought about this short discussion first before I talk about the options we have when looking at building a strong, irresistible opening.



Anonymous said...

Excellent "opening" post...


Bernard J Rossi said...

Thanks for the comment A. J. I will be trying to get the next blog in this series done over the next day or so but today I am writing a piece for Brian on The New Author site. It may turn into a two part series the way I am going but you should take a look Wednesday on his site.