The Search For the Great Beginning

file000495818648I came across a post, “Ten Great Openings to Recent YA and MG Literature by Jim Woehrle” over at Nerdy Book Club and of course, I had to read it. I mean, great openings? I was hooked.

There is nothing in my writing that I spend as much time on as my opening. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post over at WOW!Women-on-Writing or one of my full-length manuscripts. I agonize over the beginning because…well, the beginning is almost everything.

The first line–or lines–must hook the reader. And those introductory words set the tone for all that follows. A good beginning is golden, and can make up for a multitude of messes that come later. But a bad beginning? There is no later with a sucky start.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck on the beginning, I’ll just start writing the meat of the post or story or book. The ending will often help me when I go back to write the beginning. But other times, I just can’t get anything right if I start out wrong.

And I can feel it in my writing bones when I’ve nailed a beginning. In fact, I’ve come up with a great first line with no idea for a story when suddenly, the story takes off. Just because of a great beginning.

So, I’ve read a couple of those books recommended by Jim Woehrle, and I’ll add a few of them to my To Be Read list, based solely on the beginning. And now, how about you?

Do you write your beginning last? First? Any tips on those 0h-so-important first lines? And what’s your recommendation for a great beginning? Because I often learn from reading, and besides, I just love a great beginning!


9 thoughts on “The Search For the Great Beginning

  1. Great post about a subject dear and yucky to us all-LOL I read those great opening lines and try to formulate one of my own. I always struggle with that beginning. Before I do anything, tho, I outline the whole story with the basic ideas that drive my story. It’s a building and tearing down process for me. Gets messy around here 🙂 Thank you, Cathy, for sharing Jim’s post.

  2. Cathy–
    Usually I start with a beginning, muddle through a muddy middle, and come up with an ending…but then I often have to rewrite the beginning to make it stronger and more engaging.

    I always–before I buy a book–read the first few lines. If it doesn’t grab me, I figure the rest of the book won’t, either.

    • Oh, that’s interesting, Sioux, about buying the book. I don’t buy a lot of books, but I sure read a lot of ’em. I’ll keep reading past a boring beginning–I’ll finish the first chapter–but if I’m not grabbed by then, I’ll put the book down. I have to say, though, that if the beginning’s boring, I rarely find the rest of the book to be engaging.

      • Don’t know much about writing, but I know you and I am sure it all works out to be great!! Happy 2016!!

  3. You’ve struck a nerve. I struggle with beginnings, to the point that I don’t go nuts working on them because I know going in I’ll probably rewrite it after I’ve finished the story. This is especially true for books, because by the time I get to the end I realize the beginning wasn’t where I thought it should be. I guess that’s what revisions are for. 🙂

  4. I usually end up revising a beginning many times. It’s often in the process of writing and rewriting that helps me to know if my beginning is off. It depends on the piece; if it’s a story a la Chicken Soup, finding just the right quote for the theme of the story sometimes helps me find my beginning line. Novels are much more difficult, and I find myself muddling through, going back and muddling some more. Great post, as usual, Cathy (and that should have been my beginning line!). 🙂

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