Eve Paludan is an old friend of my mine from our early days in RWA as new authors. Eve had just published the Romance Writers Pink Pages and I had just sold my first Harlequin. When Eve later moved away we lost touch until Facebook and Twitter got us connected again. Now, years later, Eve and I are working together again as she guest blogs for Much Cheaper Than Therapy. So grab your chocolate and java and find out what Eve has to say.
Thank you, Connie Flynn, for inviting me to do a guest blog at your wonderful group author blog site. I've enjoyed reading the interesting, diverse blogs at Much Cheaper Than Therapy. I'm especially enjoying your multi-part series: Is There Gold in Them There Hills? It is very important for Kindle authors to be able to give away free books. This type of promotion helps readers to discover new authors. The authors' hope is that the free books will whet the appetite of new readers and bring them back to read more of our books. I appreciate all of my readers and I strive to make every book better than the last one. I think that if the writing process gets tougher instead of easier, you're probably doing it right.
I've been writing stories since I was in the second grade. My first novella was written in the summer between fifth and sixth grade with my best friend, Mary. We sat under apple trees in my parents' back yard and wrote it on notebook paper. I wish I had a copy of that middle-grade novella, A Summer Without Boys. There were no copy machines in those days, and when I moved away, a year later, I left the book with her. So, at the beginning of the story, two best friends in junior high have a falling out on the last day of school; it's a jealous rivalry over the same boy, who is the smartest boy in the school. They both like him, but they decide that they are going to save their friendship over the summer, instead of chasing boys, or even just that one boy. A most remarkable summer ensued, one that mirrored our own summer in which we cemented our friendship with grandiose projects, piles of Narnia books from the library, dozens of notebooks and Bic pens, eating fruit off the trees and exploring the other side of the creek that divided our suburban neighborhood from a mysterious rural area. I think it was just dumb luck that we started that novella with the girls fighting over a boy, and that they realized the one incident would change them both forever. I'd say we did a good job of starting that novel with the characters on the cusp of great change.
And now, related to this, I will answer your signature question:
What question have you never been asked but wish someone would?
This topic is near and dear to my heart: Where do I start my novel or story?
Years ago, Connie, when I took your romance novel writing class at Mesa Community College, I remember that one of the first things you taught us was that at the outset of the novel/story, your heroine should be in "terrible trouble." Over the years, that advice for story crafting has stuck with me and has taken on a life of its own. I have, over time, modified that advice in my mind to something that works well for me. The opening of a story should pose the heroine or the hero on the cusp of great change in their lives. There should be a problem, a conflict, an event, or all of these. The line should be short and snappy.
There shouldn't be a big back-story dump (narrative that overexplains the current situation). I suppose I have done that in the past, but I try to avoid it these days. In old-school romance novels, there was often a lot of narrative that had the heroine looking out a window or into a mirror and thinking about her life and describing how she looks. No, no, don't do that these days! Some books describe the setting as an opening. If you've ever read Pat Conroy's South of Broad novel, you know what I'm talking about. He writes beautifully, but it takes some patience to get to the point where something exciting happens. I often re-write the beginnings of my novels at least five times, sometimes trying out several very different beginnings to see which one works the best.
If at all possible, action and dialogue should lead off the present story. Something interesting should be happening. Short sentences are best, though I have broken my own rule.
Here are some first lines from some of my novels and stories:
From Ghost Fire:
I blamed the overload of positive ions in the atmosphere for our next near-fatal misadventure.From New York Minute:
“Stop the rehearsal!” blurted Liz London.From The Man Who Fell from the Sky:
The killer pushed Cody’s headless body off the horse into the waterfalls.From Finding Jessie:
The book’s the thing, whispered the invisible angel on his shoulder.It always takes me hours to get the first line written. I might change it many times before I am satisfied. If you are writing a murder mystery, for example, I think that introducing your first victim, or someone close to him or her, is a good idea for a novel opening.
Here are some first lines from other authors. Connie, this was something we did in your class, looked at the first lines of novels and studied the power of the openings:
Temple of the Jaguar by J.R. Rain and Aiden James
I found the ceremonial blade in the unmarked grave of some poor sap who had seen better days.Dhellia Has a Conscience by April M. Reign
The claws of Father's hellhounds clicked against the asphalt somewhere behind me.One Love by H.T. Night
"I can't believe we're back in Mexico..."Some interesting places to check out the best first lines of novels are:
The Amazon.com site, where potential buyers can read the beginnings of many books before buying. I love that feature of the site, as well as the free sample that you can send right to your Kindle.
Here's an interesting article on that topic.
I hope you have fun reading the openings of novels and figuring out why they work or don't work. And then, when you write the opening of your own novel, you can apply that same keen eye to your beginning and see if the hook works for your book.
Good luck writing your openings! I hope you will come by my Facebook page and Twitter, too, so we can get to know each other. If you wish, please tell me what you're writing and paste the first line of your work in the comments below. I'd love to see what you wrote.
Thanks for your time and attention. My books are exclusively on Amazon. If you add me to your Facebook friends, or to Twitter, you can stay updated with news of my freebie days for my books. It was a pleasure to contribute to this blog. I wish you very intriguing beginnings!
Sam’s quiet life as a New England bookseller and occasional lawyer is turned upside down when a tussle over a vintage children’s book turns him into the rescuer of a much younger woman. Jessie is a mysterious beauty with dark secrets—much darker than his own.
FINDING JESSIE is an emotionally intense, heartbreaking modern gothic mystery romance about a woman’s lifetime quest for her sense of self and the man who is determined to discover the truth and save her…and their fragile relationship. If he cannot shatter the lies with facts and help her to overcome her history, she will disappear from his life.
FINDING JESSIE is about love, lies, truth, betrayal, redemption, greed, mercy, and the triumph of the human spirit. A small angelic presence convinces Sam to take one last chance on this May-December relationship. FINDING JESSIE is his most fervent hope.
A controversial real-life topic is handled with compassion and sensitivity: How far would you go to redeem your lover from a shocking, terrifying past?
This Kindle book will be free on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2013.
FINDING JESSIE is available on Amazon Kindle:
"Claire Mead didn’t have her husband anymore, her children lived abroad, her income was shrinking and she hadn’t shaved her legs all winter. She hadn’t laughed, truly laughed, for months. She was going broke and still cried much too easily since David died, but suddenly, she realized she had something she had never once had before in her life -- her freedom."
LETTERS FROM DAVID is available on Amazon Kindle
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