Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shall I Practice What I Preach?

I'm always talking to my students about opening their stories in a way that intrigues the reader. The opening needs to reflect something about the story's main conflict and issues--which means you'll probably need to revise your opening after you've written the story and discovered what it's about. One good way to do this is to drop us right into meaningful action.

And, ahem, that's the exact advice I received from an editor of a publisher who is interested in my novel Complementary Colors. The opening was too slow, too focused on setting things up--things that didn't necessarily resonate with the heart of the novel.

I revised the opening, thinking I'd fixed it. A participant in my manuscript group (there are four of us who exchange full manuscript edits, a kind of bartering system) said it still didn't start at the heart of the story. I looked at it again and realized there was still too much "throat clearing." And the first line was boring! It had nothing to do with the true struggles the narrator faces.

So I rewrote it again. The first sentence now has more depth. It carries multiple meanings. And there, on the first page, is a key action that plunges the reader right into the story's "trouble." The "trouble" that leads to transformation.

I've now sent it back to the editor. I'll let you know if she thinks I was successful.
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