Saturday, February 16, 2013

First Lines

I have been thinking about first lines lately. You know, the ones you write at the beginning of your novel to grip and entrance the reader. It's those first words that really set up the stepping stones of your novel. They can encourage you to continue crafting or tempt you to toss yourself over the side of a bridge. Okay, maybe that's a bit much.

Regardless, I got to mulling over my first lines. You see, I started this new book. It's going. Not very fast, but it is going. It took me awhile to figure out where to begin. Is it just me, or is the pressure on the first paragraph astronomical  When you set out to query agents, they are going to decide off of the first four or five pages whether they want to see more of masterpiece it took you two months to six years to complete, give or take depending on who you are and what sort of novel it is.

Anyway, the new first line to my story is:

Like some sort of post graduation cliche, I found myself working at a coffee shop called Bitches Brew, where only snarky females seemed to get hired, and living in a dive apartment with two others girls I barely knew. 

Maybe it isn't the greatest first line ever put to paper (virtual paper, that is), but it allowed me to delve deeper into the story. 

Because I love getting distracted, here are a couple first lines from three of my other novels: 

1. Most believe the decline started with the earthquakes and floods, but Falcon knew it began with greed. 

2. Despite what Carla Wells told everyone, I wasn’t jealous of her and found the idea itself insulting. 

3. When he entered the world, the odds were already stacked against him. 

First lines are both my favourite things and the bane of my existence. Only because I am being overly dramatic, though. Let's have share-fest 2013!

What are you first lines?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Bane Of Pacing

I have been doing a whole tractor load of editing lately. It's a yours, mine and ours situation. Which, to be honest, has been rather fantastic. I know that's crazy for you to hear coming from me because editing used to be the bane of my existence, but these days, I kind of like it. Sure, it's time consuming and aggravating when I see what a juvenile writer I used to be. I mean, I'm still a child in this word-wielding game, but I see improvement. At least, that's what I call it. 

Pacing is important this yours, mine and ours writing situation for two reasons, and I shall deliver them forthwith. 

1. Pacing to a story is essential. You want to have a plot that unfolds like a butterfly emerging forth from a cocoon, or something as equally as poetic that signifies the importance of not rushing through things. This day and age, I'm seeing people catapulting themselves into their novels, they start with a bang and whizz, a huge amount of drama and, to be blunt, I'm simply not a banger and whizzer. Does that sound weird? 

Anyway, let me clarify by saying I fully encourage people to hit the ground running. I myself sort of jog along, easing myself and the reader and my characters into things. There's always important bits and bobbles in the first couple of chapters, but I view it like poker and not wanting to give my hand away right away. In my opinion, a bit of mystery is necessary. 

This said, I fear readers might not feel the same way, so I wonder if I should change. I mean, I am aware this is part of my writing style and I don't feel it weakens the words I put to virtual paper or even the blooming plot lines. Others will most likely disagree, because not everyone likes apple wine and strawberry shortcake - whatever that means. 

To be honest, I think a lot of people struggle with pacing. Not only when it comes to plot, but also sentence structure. There are many different ways to put a paragraph together. Sometimes when you read a section aloud you will see when the pace is off. It's like poetry in some ways. You want the right beats. The correct pauses. This is something I'm working on. 

2. Now, pacing yourself when editing. I believe it is a time consuming task to painstakingly go through each and every line and pick it apart only to put it back together again in the exact same way. At times, it can feel overwhelming, which is why I strongly recommend knowing your limits. Taking on too much, yeah, I'm the Queen of that. I want to help, lend a hand, but sometimes, it isn't possible. Stress is a killer. No, really. I think stress is one of the most toxic things people cater to. 

In the last couple years, I've noticed how daunting a full manuscript can feel. Finally, I understand why agents ask for the first couple of chapters or fifty pages. It doesn't seem like such a monstrous mountain. I have a couple critique partners, editing buddies, and I've come up with the chapter by chapter method. Not only is this easier on me, but I believe it to be easier on the person I'm exchanging with. Mostly because I'm ruthless with the scalpel and have the tendency not to sugar coat things. 

Here's the thing, the chapter by chapter method allows you see areas you struggle with as you go. The changes are done more easily. And, if necessary for huge plot holes, you can fix things in advance before hitting your partner with the next chapter. Also, it helps to brainstorm as you go and get feedback so you aren't walloped over the head with a bunch of suggestions for areas of improvement. 

This, of course, may not work for you, but have you ever gotten an entire manuscript back with a crap load of red all over it and wanted to shove it in a drawer and never look at it again? 

Yeah, this method prevents those crushing feelings. 

The funny part is when I sat down to write this little post I fully intended to talk about pacing in life. Then, it turned into a little rant about editing and writing. I find it interesting where my brain takes me. 

Until next time, this is Tyson, signing off.