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Posts Tagged ‘director’s call to action’

Writers, do you ever struggle to put the first sentence down on paper? There’s far too much pressure. Of all the sentences in your entire book, this first sentence is both the most vital and the most challenging.

You do not need me to tell you that the first sentence is important. You know that. It is a reader’s initial blush with who you are. Covers and summaries and introductions are all well and good, but the sentence that begins chapter one is like a director’s call to action. Fail to command attention and you lose the reader.

In a few words, you must pluck Average Joe from a bookstore in modern day America and place both his feet on the ground you imagined. In a world of smartphones chirping and media whiplash, how does an author steal away Joe’s mind from all the troubles of his day and all the plans for his night? With a lot of work.

Here are some things to remember:

1) Try and try again. You will need to type out sentence after sentence after sentence until you find what feels right. This is often not accomplished in just one sitting.

2) Walk away. When you just cannot start your book, do not immediately feel shame. If it is the hardest and most significant thing in your novel, then it makes sense that you will not finalize the first few words until you have completed the book as a whole. It shows wisdom and experience for you to walk away from the first sentence and come back to it later with enthusiasm.

3) Ask for help. The last thing in the world I–as a prideful and controlling author–want to do is ask someone else to write my first sentence for me. But there is great merit in asking for help, finding a good idea, and changing it to suit who you are as an author.

4) Seize inspiration when it comes. Your inspiration for the first sentence may come years before you ever know the characters or write the book. Profound phrases fall into our heads before bed or on the top of a roller coaster or while sitting in a movie theater. Write them down in a specific place so that you have a database of ‘epic-ness’ to drawn from.

In my next post I will delve further into the crafting of first sentences.

(Written 6/27 and scheduled for your benefit while I’m away.)

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