Sunday, June 5, 2011

First Lines and Popsicles

Why the heck are beginnings so hard? I’ve looked at the first page of my YA novel in progress so many times, I’m sick of reading it. When my writing partner and I worked on our first novel together, we struggled time and again with our first chapter. We re-wrote it multiple times. I lost track, actually, of how many different versions we had. We’d think it was fixed, then one of us would drag it out again and decide it still needed work. So we’d tear it apart and rebuild, tuck it away and hope it was just right. And then the pattern would start all over again.


Then there is the classic question: To Prologue or Not To Prologue? Also just painful. I mean… Sayantani and I had this fantastic scene of a hunt taking place in the jungle, and it tied back into the resolution of the story so well! And I have a dream prologue that my main character just has to have to set the stage for RLR. But you hear that some agents and editors hate prologues…and it is the first thing they’ll see of your manuscript if they ask for the first five/ten/chapter/whatever. So the last thing you want to do is turn them off by having a prologue, right?

So…in honor of the beginning of Summer, I’m going to take a look at first lines for some of the books I have sitting in either my “to be read” piles or my kid’s summer reading piles. Just had a big trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday with my son, so we’ve got some good stuff racked up for summer reading. Maybe this will inspire me.  Here goes:

Middle Grade

Fred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon by Esile Arevamirp and Elise Primavera – “Fred and Anthony hung out a lot together, goofing off and watching horror movies.”

My Rotten Life, Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie by David Lubar – “It’s no fun having your heart ripped from your body, slammed to the floor, and stomped into a puddle of quivering red mush.”

Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-Weiner by Ursula Vernon – “What’s your problem?” asked Danny’s best friend, Wendell, shaking him awake.”

Young Adult

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett (note: This one was a Prinz honor book) – “I am dying: it’s a beautiful word. Like the long, slow sigh of a cello: dying.”

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – “Sir?” she repeats. “How soon do you want it to get there?”

Blood Red Road by Moira Young – “The day’s hot. So hot and so dry that all I can taste in my mouth is dust.”

So I should go write now. I’ll probably ignore my beginning today and work on something smack dab in the middle. (Middles are easier. Not easy…but easier. At least for me.) It is summer, after all, and too hot to get frustrated on a beginning. But maybe tomorrow…

You, too. Go write something. And eat a popsicle.


  1. Karen, I have one sound piece of advice for you: READ "THIRTEEN REASONS WHY" BY JAY ASHER. IT IS A GREAT BOOK. I read it and I loved it! Oh, and I also happen to follow his blog and he's a really funny, cool guy. You can find him on Blogger at

  2. I know, right? You want those first sentences to not just grab the reader but set the tone for the rest of the book - which is kind of a big deal.
    You know my recent fave - "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

  3. Hello Karen - I am visiting your blog for the first time and already I am inspired. Reading first lines from a pile of books - what a great way to get the writing pistons firing. I think I will pull a stack from from my crowded shelves and try it now.

  4. Thanks for the visit, Carol! Glad you liked this post. Hope to see you back again. And Sabringa -- I've heard so many good things about 13 Reasons Why...I just had to give it a try. It sounds amazing.
    Yeah, S -- BIG DEAL. And way too intimidating!

  5. Good forst sentence picks!
    I am not a believer in prologues. Lots of people don't really read them, for one. Good luck with getting those first lines just right.