The first page of your book or story has to get it right.
John Gardner, the great writing teacher, said it takes only five words of a really well-written novel to plunge the reader into the fictional world.
I absolutely agree with him.
Your readers will know from the first line whether they’re in good hands or not.
Agents and editors will know that quickly, too.
Most writers realize the importance of a strong opening. That’s why I see so many writers posting “first lines” and “first pages” in various online writing groups, hoping for feedback.
I have to tell you that woefully few are on the right track.
I see tons of description, plenty of overwrought emotion, streams of words, words, and more words.
You know what I don’t see?
The beginning of a story.
In this livestream I talk about first pages. What must we include? What should we leave out?
And what is it about a well-done opening that gives a reader (or an...
Daybreak is a lovely thing to watch unfold, but the actual sunrise happens in the span of a single breath.
One moment the sun is beneath the horizon; the next, it’s above. If you’re the sort of early-bird person who likes to know what time the sunrise is slated to occur, you can look it up and get an answer that’s timed to the minute.
Your story, too, has a precise moment of beginning. The hijinks in your fictional world may have started eons ago; your hero may have been destined for glory since the fateful day she was born.
But there’s one particular moment in which you, the writer and decider of these things, choose to open the curtain. You choose the exact day, minute, and millisecond in which we readers get our first glimpse of your hero breaking over the horizon, so to speak.
Often, writers struggle to know what that momentous first scene should be. There’s so much we want the reader to know!
With the best...
You’ve filled notebooks with scribbled ideas and scoured the baby name websites for character names. But how do you know when you’re ready to actually start writing your draft?
I hear this question a lot. For many writers, there’s a a lot of pencil-sharpening that goes on before we dare type “Chapter One.” Some preparation is productive; too much just might be a form of procrastination. And there are a few specific questions that the wise writer will have considered deeply before putting too many words on paper.
In this livestream we discuss what you’d be wise to know before you start drafting—and what you can trust yourself to discover along the way. There’s some very practical advice here! I think you’ll find it very useful.
My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.
To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller...
This week’s livestream unzips the age-old question: Is it okay to write by the seat of one’s pants?
To be, in a word, a Pantser?
Or does the golden road to “real” writing require the dreaded Outline?
Pantsers and outliners, outliners and pantsers.... why can’t we all just get along?
I love this question and have OPINIONS. Is it even necessary to choose? What if we are all both Pantsers and Outliners — just not at the same time?
Many thanks to Path of the Storyteller follower Mailli for sending in this excellent question!
My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and ask questions! Or catch the replays here on the blog.
To watch live, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.
And subscribe to the YouTube channel here.
Tone is everything, isn’t it?
If I say “what’s wrong with you?” in a rude way, it implies both that I think there IS something wrong with you, and that I have an opinion about it!
Yet a different, warmer, more curious intonation might be an expression of care. I can see something's wrong, and I want to know more.
This kinder, gentler way is the stance we must take toward our protagonists. I like to call them heroes, for reasons that will be made clear as these tips progress. Protagonist, main character, hero — look, you know who I mean. Your story is bound to have one.
And whoever that hero is — something’s wrong. Something is drastically, urgently, things-can’t-go-on-like-this wrong.
It might be something obvious (your horrible uncle hates you and makes you live in a cupboard under the stair, oh and you're an orphan too, long story! ) — or more subtle (you don’t actually mind being a...
A blank page just brings out the graffiti artist in me. Put a mark on it, quick!
But here’s the thing: writing is not made out of marks on a page. It's not made out of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs.
Good writing is made out of story. Character. Emotion. Transformation.
In a well-told tale, there’s a palpable energetic shift as both hero and reader journey from where we are at the beginning to where we end up at the tale’s thrilling, surprising, yet inevitable conclusion.
An axis has shifted. The transformation is profound and irrevocable. This tale has taken both protagonist and reader on an adventure of meaningful change.
TODAY’S TIP: Words are easily tidied up in revisions. In a first draft, dig deep and discover what happens. Your hero’s adventure may be bigger, wilder, and deeper than it first appears. What is it?
Storytellers, start your engines!