Friday, October 1, 2010

A Winner, A Bedtime Story, and Flash Back Friday

I. Thanks for all the kind comments about my review of Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce. Seriously, if you like fantasy or YA or both you need to go out and get this book. For a lucky one of you, that won't be necessary because


you have won a free copy. Come on down to the Price Is Right! *cheers!* Please email me your shipping address, friend, and I'll mail the book out to you ASAP.

II. As a (pitiful) consolation prize for the rest of you, here is a bedtime story... a FLASH BACK FRIDAY edition!
Once upon a time there was a blog that didn’t know how to reach out to followers. Faithfully the posts came, but clueless was the author. It’s a good thing the author believes in recycling. Here is her virtual attempt at reusing garbage:

“Good Beginnings or Best Beginnings”

I'm doing a crazy amount of rewriting right now. Sometimes it feels like time well spent, others... not so much. I know editing has a big learning curve, but sometimes I wish I was preprogrammed to know what effective rewriting was. And I suppose like 99.9% of us, the only way to know is to keep at it. Over and over again.

Anyway, with all the rewriting--especially working on the first few chapters--I've been thinking; what makes a great beginning?

I was at my local Barnes and Noble buying a book for a friend when I began reading the design on the shopping bag. Now some of you will know that they are quotes from famous books, but for those of you that have never read them, this is what I saw:

"All children, except one, grow up."
"Call me Ishmael."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
"Happy families are all alike."
"My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

There are others printed on the bag and though not all these quotes are at the exact first of the book, they have something in common. They are the first statement that set up the reader expectation. Perhaps some people will not agree, but I think these sentences are the lights that direct the eye to the center stage. They let us know where the book is going and provide something to draw us into the main plot. And these sentences do it so well that it's hard to think of them being expressed any other way.

Now my problem: come up with my own stage spotlight in my rewrites. I have good ones now, but I'm looking for something unforgettable and inevitable, just as these are.

October 1st, 2010 Update: I’m still rewriting (a different book) and asking myself the same questions about beginnings. Perhaps that learning curve was even steeper than I anticipated back then... le sigh…. :)


  1. A great beginning is certainly something to aim for.

    I find beginnings to be the hardest part of writing a novel. I try not to stress myself out about them but I always do.


  2. Beginnings are definitely my Achilles's heel. I go over them and over them. Endings, I have no problem.

  3. I will have to go buy it now! lol. By the way, I liked your bedtime story :)

  4. Yay!! Congratulations to Margo Berendson!!!

    And of course your flashback post is not garbage! Awwwww!! You make a great point about the perfect sentence to start your novel!! It's great that two years on you are continuing to write and with more confidence! Yes of course!

    Take care

  5. I think first sentences are critical too. People may have learned not to judge a book by its cover, but browsers in book stores certainly judge books by their first paragraph...

  6. The great thing about being a writer is that a new beginning is never really that far away.

    And we have to learn the same lessons over and over again with each book!!


  7. I try not to think about how steep my learning curve is. I'm afraid it might make me give up.

  8. I'm not one of those writers who can come up with that perfect sentence that would ever be quoted... I just hit the story running. High action is the best I can do. Maybe I'll get better at those but I sure admire other writers who can come up with that 'one great line'

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  10. Congrats to Margo.

    I don't know if there are any quotable quotes in my writing. Who knows, maybe someone will find one. :)

  11. Love how you've worded that - they are the lights that direct the eye to center stage. GREAT! and love all those quotes!

  12. I'm still searching for that elusive perfect first line as well! :)

  13. hi miss jackee! i like bedtime stories and this was a good one. you got me thinking on how that first part is like having a catchy title. im gonna go back and maybe have to do a lot of changes on my first words cause maybe now therye pretty boring. i been missing you but im real happy you been getting lots of writing done.
    ...hugs from lenny

  14. I just looked at your've been blogging since 2008. Wow, in 2008 I didn't even know that blogs existed...So I'd say my learning curve has dramatically grown in the last twelve months... Something I learned this week was how important titles are... I had a piece rejected because they already had a similar project under contract, but a few minutes later they emailed me again to let me know that they liked my title. I can't tell you how many times the word count changed on that pb...and the title changed twice...

    Keep at it Jackee...You are a wonderful writer with great ideas...go to a conference and show your work to an editor or an agent'll make an impression. I KNOW YOU WILL! When is AZ's SCBWI conference?

  15. I found you through Alex Cavenaugh. He's a cool guy. I love to read about writer's stories of creation, so your blog is pretty much awesome to me. I'll be back.

  16. There IS so much pressure on that first line. How to give the gist of the book in one sentence without giving too much away or sounding like a cheesy commercial? If you continue to struggle, my advice is to get some suggestions from others who've read the story, or a good chunk of it, and that should get you rolling.

    Also, I don't believe the truly great lines are slaved over - I think they simply come in a happy moment of inspiration.

  17. Sometimes I think the more you learn the more you realize how little you know. At least that's true for me!

  18. There is a lot of weight put on those poor beginnings. I just queried a book where I am still worried about those opening lines--not sure they hook enough.

  19. First lines in books are much better than MOST pick up lines. (LOL)