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The Power of the First Sentence

Brenda Hineman has a good article on the Write To Done blog. Anyone  who writes can understand the frustration of staring…

… at that blank page with the desperate urge to write, only nothing comes out. We want to be in the zone. We want words flowing effortlessly from our fingertips. We want characters spouting witty banter that we, as writers, never even knew we had in us.

But, alas… nothing.

Starting is always the greatest hurdle. I face a vast expanse of white space.  The only thing of the screen:  a small blinking cursor that  taunts me; daring me to push it to the right.

As writers, one of the best ways for us to undermine the paralyzing power of the blank page is to focus on writing just one sentence. By telling ourselves, we will write one killer opening sentence, we set a manageable goal that, ideally, sets up the next sentence … maybe more.

Finally, remember that you don’t have to write The Great American Novel every time you sit down to mash the keys. More often than not, a good sentence is all you really need to get a story going.

Nothing new or revelatory here, but a good reminder that every journey has to begin with the first step.  The article has some excellent example of what makes a good opening line.

Dark Couier Font

The Courier fonts that come with Windows are anemic. When printed out they are way to0 light. Do a favor for anyone who will be reading your manuscript by installing a darker font.

HP offers and excellent one for free. The download and instructions for instillation can be found here.

This font is for Windows only. The standard one that comes with Macintosh is plenty dark enough.

More Heinlein Wisdom

Robert A. Heinlein, one my favorite writers, had five rules for writing.

They are:

1. You Must Write

2.Finish What Your Start

3.You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order

4.You Must Put Your Story on the Market

5.You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

All good advice. However, Rule 3 usually takes some explaining. Heinlein may very well have been confident in sending out first drafts–he was Robert A. Heinlein after all–but most of us could not get away with that. First drafts are almost always too rough to be seen by anyone except your dog. Since dogs can’t read, they are just impress that you have words on paper. Most people agree that what Heinlein was trying to say was “Don’t rewrite endlessly.”

I struggle what that one a lot. The fact is it can alway be better, but at some point you just have let it go. Knowing when it has reached this point is the hard part. A simply one line rule can’t tell me when it is time to stop. Still, keeping the rule in mind does help.

Novelist Robert J. Sawyer has a good article on these rues with his take on them and adds a sixth. Well worth checking out.

Now I’m off to polish up that first chapter a bit more. Or maybe not.

Writer’s Hygiene

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.Robert Heinlein