There's this thing on Twitter, sponsored/organized by the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America, called #1lineWed.
On each Wednesday, this chapter posts a theme that you either create lines for or find in your own work-in-process (WIP). Themes have included food or humor or, this week, the "all is lost" moment.
This is a great exercise because it strengthens how well you can punch the reader in the throat with strong exposition and/or equally strong dialogue.
This is now my segue into those sticky hooks you put all over your book called the First Lines of Each Chapter AND Each Section Break. Whenever the reader needs to pause, you need to be there with a sharp hook skewered with a juicy worm--sacrified for the pleasure of your reader.
All so they won't put the book down to take that coffee/TV/pee break.
Unfinished writing (I hate the term "bad writing"--I like to think of it as the writer just didn't give enough time to re-envisioning and revising the story) has a lot of missed opportunities. Flat chapter beginnings. Flat scene beginnings. I have the same problem. Most writers do.
But I let myself have that problem in Drafts 1-5. By Drafts 6-8, I am cleaning up those opening lines.
The following is from my book, Bad Mom Rents a Man: Mother's Day.
"Oh good, Maggie, I caught you."
"Maggie? Yoo hoo! Maggie!"
The difference: Same woman saying similar dialogue, but the way she does it goes from "Eh. Polite encounter ahead. Time to put down the book." to "Ooh. A busy body. There might be some conflict with a busy body. I must read!"
"I feel awful," Maggie moaned. She pulled the empty plastic ice bucket to her, the clear plastic bag inside to catch anything that was still left in her stomach.
Maggie moaned. Her stomach was mad at her, real mad.
The difference: The first draft's version was a little gross. And overdramatic. I switched it up to just be moaning and the reader thinking "Why is a stomach mad?"
And with each story, you get better at creating these lines--especially if you remind yourself to do this step in your Last Draft Revision Checklist. In the second book of the series, Bad Mom Rents a Man: Glampfest!, I knew better, and I was writing first lines like these (from the first five chapters):
MAGGIE WESTON STOOD ON A DARK DIRT ROAD, ROUGHING HERSELF UP AND CURSING.
MAGGIE WANTED AUGUSTUS SLOANE AND HIS WEIRD-ASS BUG SPRAY TO DISAPPEAR.
AUGUSTUS STOOD IN THE WOODS AND WAITED, WHICH IS WHERE A CERTAIN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SPY FOUND HIM.
A LINE OF TEENAGE KIDS STOOD THERE. ALL BOYS. ALL IN BEDSHEETS. ALL WITH WHAT LOOKED LIKE CHRISTMAS WREATHS ON THEIR HEADS.
THE BOY IN THE BAD TOGA AND A "YOLO" ARM TATTOO DID NOT LOOK LIKE HE WAS ENJOYING HIS YOLO MOMENT.
Better, right? Fun too. (If I do say so myself!)
If you want to hone your first lines, I truly, truly recommend going to Romance Writers of America's Kiss of Death chapter on Twitter (@RWAKissofDeath) and follow at #1lineWed.
First lines are fun, fun, fun. But do you think you spend too much time on them and forget to write the rest of the story?
P.S. To leave a comment, Blogger isn't very clear about what to click. So let me help! Click on "Comments," which is located after the time stamp below.