It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

If I had a wish to help me write just one chapter of my book, it would be the opening chapter. For me, as a reader, everything hinges on that first experience. If I’m not hooked by the time I get to chapter two, there is zero chance I will keep reading.

I remember clearly to this day when I first fell in love with books, and that was when – as a nine-year-old – I opened the first page of Tove Jansson’s classic tale, Finn Family Moomintroll and I read, Dear child!!!! When I first heard that the whole Finn Family Moomintroll was going abroad, I went to Moominpapa and asked if I should pack the usual things we carry with us on our wanderings around.

230px-Finn_Family

I was enchanted! I had to know what happened next. And, my love affair with reading really began.

That’s the sort of reaction I’d like to elicit in the people who read my stories. I remember when J.K. Rowling was really getting big – and there was a huge kafuffle around the release of each new Harry Potter book – the thing I admired the most about her meteoric rise was that she had gotten kids reading again.

J.K. Rowling drew the kids away from their devices, and not only that, she’d reached that Holy Grail of getting the boys reading. 

Wow. I loved that. I don’t dream of the sort of massive success Rowling had – I think it’d be hideous to have the world’s attention on you 24/7 – I dream of turning non-readers into readers. How cool!

220px-Joy_Cowley_(cropped)

I did a children’s writing workshop with Kiwi author, Joy Cowley, in 2010. Joy said the opening sentence ‘has to have huge energy. It’s the bait on the hook to catch the reader.’

Perhaps I could use my wish to ask for help with the first line? My good friend, author, Cat Clayton, posted on Facebook this week, ‘How many times can you edit the same sentence? Countless.’ And, it’s true. I can’t fathom how many times I edit and rewrite the opening lines of my books. With my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, I may have rewritten upwards of forty times.

The way Larry Brooks puts it, Somewhere in the first 30 to 50 pages your reader needs to realize they are as intrigued by the characters – often both the protagonist and the bad guy, though the latter may not have shown up yet – as they are by the conceptual “what if?’ hook you’ve sunk into their skull.’

So, no pressure.

Donna Blaber

I always remember friend and successful Kiwi author, Donna Blaber, telling me to edit the heck out of the first ten to twenty pages of each book. She said she always spent more time on those crucial pages than any other part of her story. I’ve followed Donna’s advice ever since. And, with the first sentence, especially, I can’t rest until I feel I have it right.

I spend agonizingly long periods in front of my computer until I go nearly cross-eyed. I examine each word carefully. Put it this way, if I did get my wish granted, to have help with the first chapter of my book, it would free up a lot more of my time!

Do you over-edit your first page, first chapter? Do you choose your books to read by the back cover blurb or by reading the opening lines?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 years or 20 years, every day, not counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.’ ~ Anne Enright

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Neetter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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Comments
  1. Hi. I don’t write books, but I think the same concepts apply to the essays/stories on my site. I like the opening sentences to have a decent amount of pow factor. Enjoy the upcoming weekend!

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi Neil, I agree. It applies to any piece of writing anywhere. When I’m scrolling through the WordPress home feed, I often read the first paragraph and that determines whether I read the whole blog or not.
      Thanks by the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. emaginette says:

    There is a lot of pressure to get the first pages just right. No one wants a rejection. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always Yvette, a post packed with sound advice ! And again the Moomintrolls ! Which I read and reread ! My middle daughter Emma loves them too ! Recently, my husband, My son, Paul and I saw a very curious film from Sweden, at the cinema called Border about…..A customs officer at the ferry landing ……I can’t give more away….so you’ll just have to rake a risk and try it out ! Opinions were mixed ! I loved it. It is classified as ‘fantasy’, but I’m not so sure !

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi Susan, thank you! I like culling bits and pieces from everywhere. The best gift I ever got in my life was the whole set of Moomin books. My first boyfriend doesn’t know he has that honour. But I was so impressed he had figured out was important to me and had searched the bookshops for months until he found them all. I still have them. The one pictured is from my library. Actually, my mother and sisters were all big fans, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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