♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
“The first sentence has to have a solid punch.” —Steve Berry from “Twisty Business”
Let’s talk about it.
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. Even more so, we appreciate that you share our writings with friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
My first response is to not get hung up on this idea of a banger opening. The first sentence can matter a great deal, but it can also defeat you in your efforts as you seek the impossible perfection that the above quote is asking of you. It sounds like Steve spoke more on a pitch quote or logline, like what writers use in film sales. I’d spread this out more, for a book–especially one that spreads beyond a few hundred pages. You’re going to need to make sure every sentence matters in your work, anyway.
The truth of this is that if someone puts your book down after the first sentence, no matter how solid a punch you gave it, they were going to pass on reading your work anyway. In many instances, what they’re seeking is an idea of what your book is about. If they failed to find what they’re looking for from the jacket, cover, or title, but still look at the first page, that is your last shot with them. In most cases, a banger isn’t going to change their mind! They’re not into you. And, that is ok.
What I believe matters more, is a good blurb. Unless you plop down a first paragraph riddled with issues, your reader will stick with you longer than the first line. I’ve never considered a book based solely on it’s opening first sentence. Think about how ludicrous that is. An entire book cannot be summed up, nor your style or skill, in a single opening sentence. To try is a fools errand only luck or stars aligned can work out.
How do I know? Blue Honor took me on such a journey of discovery about storytelling, writing, and publishing, that I won’t soon forget the lessons that nearly defeated me right out of the business. Firstly, you cannot predict the reception your book will encounter with the public. You can guess based on your skill level and marketing bank. Part of the outcome is determined by an established readership. When you are brand new, you likely have only the skill level and are building the others.
Next, your attitude is what will shape a lot of that journey, as well. In other words, how you receive constructive information is going to hamper or propel you forward. It’s not easy to hear you need work. It’s definitely difficult to stomach that from those who are just seeking to diminish you and your efforts. Yes, there are people out there who respond negatively just for the thrills of putting others down. That said, you have to set your ego aside enough to recognize when someone is being helpful (although they could ham-fist the message) and when they’re being a jerk.
Lastly, not every bit of advice applies. One thing I learned in my film writing career, which I took to every other part of my life: no formula guarantees success and the advice out there isn’t one size fits all. Meaning, just because a supposed expert says something works doesn’t mean it will work for you. Also, there are millions of exceptions to the rules. Breaking rules, as well, is where magic often happens. You’ll still need to make a banger of a logline, however, for the producers.
This information can cause frustration. While it seems to give you the go ahead to do what you will, you should also sense the caution embedded within that advice. The reality is that there are millions of authors struggling for readers. Although there are enough readers for us all, them hearing us is difficult with all that noise blowing around. Don’t neglect your skills because you think you’ve learned all you need to know about them to be a great writer.
In any successful career, the person has continued to learn and hone their craft. I do not care how many books or articles, or other publications, you’ve published. If you fail to continue to grow as a writer, then you are failing the art and yourself. Yes, you always have room for improvement. The feedback you receive will likely to point to the areas in which you need to grow. Prepare your ego to hear that information and process it.
Don’t get hung up on the Steve’s advice. So what if you don’t have a banger of a first sentence? If you wrote your story well, and prepared everything meticulously, you’re not going to fail. Sometimes, that banger of an opening just doesn’t exist. Would you rather spend years contemplating the opening, or put your book out there for readers to enjoy? If a potential reader stops at your first paragraph, they’re not your reader.
Learn to flow with the nuances and what works best for you and your work. Fitting your square into their round opening is a formula for failure. Of that, you can be certain! If you care more about the art of writing and storytelling, that will show in your work, and your readers will pick up on your passion. Readers weary of formulas pray for writers that buck trends. Find them!
Then, find the other authors on this hop who have answers to this question, too! Click on their links below: