In the past few months, all of the novel projects I have started working on have shared one odd trait: The starting sentences of each of them came from the second or third page of the draft, or a thought born of something on one of those pages.
In one case, the starting sentence came into being thanks to a thought I was chasing regarding something a little later in the original scene, but got upgraded to opening paragraph material.
Since I'm not quite awake enough yet to do serious work, I thought I'd share a bit about each of these projects and how they got their opening lines/paragraphs. Of course, these openers are subject to editorial changes, but they're what I have now.
Was it suicide, murder, or both if he obeyed his king, sending those under his command to their inevitable, bloody deaths? Lars stared at the letter in his hand, willing the orders to change. They didn’t.
I really love this opener because it makes me–the author of the bloody thing–ask so many questions. Hopefully, if I'm left asking questions, so are my readers. What sort of person is Lars? Why is he in this situation?
Most importantly, what is he going to do about it?
That became the entire premise of the book. There are few novels I have written where the opening line resonated with the actual book so much. So yes, I opened with one of my favorite openers.
I came up with this sentence on page two or so of the original draft; it was a mix of random blurbs and dialogue and actions, that eventually grew to become an opening scene.
Athene wished her mother had named her Phoenix so she might rise from Earth’s ashes and be reborn among the stars.
This opening line came in about halfway through the first page of the handwritten version. Because I'm a sucker for punishment, I'm including a very bad cell phone photograph of the opening page of Project Zeta.
If you click the image, you'll be able to read it, but the opening line was worked from the highlighted section in the middle of the page, the one with the blue highlighter notation near it.
This is a pretty good example of a handwritten opening page for me, as I do a lot of mental work as I write out the story in one of my journals. More often than not, what I write by hand is not what makes it into the computer. It's a skeleton for me to work from, helping me gather my thoughts and find the actual story in there somewhere.
Sometimes it works out where what was written on the page is actually what ends up in the computer, but usually not. Project Zeta is a hybrid of these two. A lot of what is written on the page did make it into the computer, but I added a lot of substance as I worked on it, too.
The world was full of corpses, and I, Emmett Jackson, knew them by name. Unfortunately for me, my brother knew I knew.
That’d teach me to tell my twin any of my secrets.
This one was weird; the opening line has been kicking around in my head a while; I knew I wanted to include this concept in the book–the entire book was founded on this idea. But originally, it was meant to be a kicker for a scene, not the opening sentence.
It worked its way right to the beginning of the novel. Actually, I had what I'd consider the closest thing to writer's block I've had in years, all because of this line. Because I didn't know where I wanted to put the line, I didn't work on the project. (I needed a break from Witch & Wolf anyway, so it worked out well…)
This line has been haunting me since I was working on Winter Wolf, in case you're curious. I had it kicking around in my head from the day I started outlining Blood Diamond, which was approximately three days after I had finished outlining Winter Wolf.
This novel has been a royal pain in my ass. Seriously, it's a royal pain. Beyond royal, really. Originally, I meant to write it as a singular third person POV Science Fiction. It's now a dual-POV third person Sci Fi.
This is the original opener, which I don't like all that much as a starter for the entire book; it's fine for the starter of a character, but it doesn't have the umph I want for the book.
Jas checked over his shoulder yet again, but there was no one there to notice him next to the gap in the city’s wall. The damp of the jungle beyond hung in the air, filling his nose with the heady scent of wild foliage and moist soil. The promise of heat and sticky humidity clung to him, warning him of what awaited him outside of Lyal’s walls and its air-filtering shields.
Fortunately for me, Morik came around almost halfway through Jas's entire story arc. That's right, I wrote half of Evolulite before deciding there was actually two main characters, and the story was as much about Morik as it was about Jas. If anything, it's more about Morik and the Veloc than it is about the young Zetaterran who gets caught up in the big, violent world of space pirates and grubby planet busters.
I don't actually have this typed up yet, so you're getting treated to another craptastic cellphone capture of the first page.
I'll admit, I'm slightly disturbed I've almost filled two moleskine journals with this story and I'm not halfway done what I was planning for it. Oops. I don't want to make this one a multi-book set, so it'll likely be one really, really long novel.
Curse Morik, anyway. He's one of my favorite characters ever to write, and he isn't even human. Okay, well, he's got a human relative somewhere down the line, but that's a different story.
So in the case of this one, I didn't get the opening sequence until I was almost halfway done the book. Go me.
Writing is hard.
And last but not least…
In this one, I got the starter line from the second page of my handwritten whatsits.
Thanks to the modern marvels of cell phone technology, you're getting a photograph of the original page one–before I looked over page two and realized my first sentence was actually on the next page.
This is a classic example of how I write really crappy opening sequences in order to get a feel for a brand new character and the situation they, in this case, a woman, is in.
The current premise of the opener is this:
“f Vera was doomed to be sold into slavery, she'd do so by choice, not because of the whims of her parents. It wasn't her fault that her father had squandered their family's wealth in a series of failed trading ventures, each more absurd than the last. Why should she be used as currency to pay off his debt?
Or some such… which is much better than the drivel written on the first page, if you ask me.
Welcome to my brain space. Have a pleasant stay.