I have struggled, to say the least, with this revision of my novel in progress. It has me tearing my hair out. It has me cutting whole chapters. It has me rethinking the entire novel altogether. The credit for this has to go to my writing team, my group. As frustrating as the process is, I truly appreciate their feedback.
I think the lesson I have focused on most, as of late, is the lesson of first lines. We all know the first line of a book has to grab the reader (or the editor) or the fear is that either won’t look past that first line. First lines are a bit like poetry. They say a lot in as few words possible.
My epiphany is that there are a lot of first lines in a book. For each chapter, there is a new first line that has to be as compelling, if not more so, than the last. Hey, if a book doesn’t keep my interest, I’ll stop reading and move on to the next one. I’ve got too many “to reads” on my bookshelf to mess around.
It’s not easy to get those luscious lines over and over again. In this revision, I’m really looking at how each chapter opens, that is if I keep the chapter. That’s a whole different post. Anyway, I turned to the great Barbara Kingsolver to get a lesson on first lines throughout an entire book. The Bean Trees was what was in reach. I read it years ago, but I could definitely read it again.
First line of the book:
I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine’s father over the top of the Standard Oil sign.
Here we know something about the character. We know her a fear. We know she probably comes from a rural background, a farming background. We know she probably has some grit herself, even if she starts out talking about a fear.
First line of Chapter Two
Lou Ann Ruiz lived in Tucson, but thought of herself as just an ordinary Kentuckian a long way from home.
Again it tells us something about a character, about where she lives and where she is from. We know she is out of her element from that little line. We are compelled about this whole idea of her being out of her element.
First line of Chapter Eight
Of all the ridiculous things, Mama was getting married.
Short and to the point.
All these lines are compelling. All these lines drive the reader to want more. These are just a handful. Now, it’s my turn to go through this revision looking at the lines I’ve chosen. My task is to take them apart and really examining how effective they are at drawing the reader into the next segment of my novel. Well, my work is cut out for me. Cross your fingers. Hopefully, this project will be done by the end of summer.