Writing Advice I’d Give My Younger Self
The Important First Line
I pride myself on first lines. I want that first line to feel like a hook sticking out of the side of your cheek that irritates you so bad that you just have to get to the end of the story. We all want that, am I right? Readers and writers both deserve that big hook.
Is it the most important part of the book? Some would say yes. Think about this, you’re in a book store and you have no clue what you want to read, what’s your first move? Go to a certain section? Ask someone? Browse? Then what do you do? You search through titles, picking up random books that tickle your fancy. Ok, what’s your next move?
I know when I’m searching for a new book to read, I go by the cover, the blurb, and then maybe I read the first line, or the first page. I’ve done my research and I have to say, a lot of people feel the same. While that first line needs to have an underlying message to the reader saying, “READ ME” it’s not the most important part, in my opinion.
No matter what you write, the most important thing is that you put out the best possible work you can.
Don’t Stop Learning
My debut novel, Piggybacker, started out as a short story for a contest I didn’t win and became a huge part of my life for nearly a decade. I changed it from a short story to a full-blown novel because I always thought there was more to the story, so in a way, I’m happy I didn’t win that contest. If I’d won, that probably would have been the end of it. Piggybacker needed to be told in its own way, in its own time.
I wrote the novel in three months, night after night, my face was glued to the laptop’s screen, typing away. I barely paid attention to the words I typed—what I needed was to get the story out. I didn’t even think about the consequences.
My problem was there were so many issues in the end I didn’t even know how to fix it. Would I do it that way again? Absolutely! Because now I know so much more. I’ve learned more writing skills, mastered different aspects that have held me back in the past.
This time I’d probably attempt an outline, even a rough one, before writing, so I had some path to follow and a wee bit less editing.
What Advice to Take
Mine! Just kidding.
This is the hard part in being a novice, is figuring out who’s right and what’s best for your story. They may all have valid opinions. So, what do you do when one person says, “Change the first line” and another says, “I love that first line”? The only answer: whatever you want. The best thing anyone’s ever said to me was that the “Goddess of my own story,” and that stuck with me. What that means is, you have to be happy with the final product. You’re the creator. You have the last word. Isn’t that magnificent?
Never Give Up, Never Surrender to Rewrites
There’s an idea sitting in the back of your mind, buried deep within the depths of your subconscious mind. You just have to get out of your own head long enough for it to wiggle loose and get through. It’s like when you adopt a new cat. Even if the pet adored you at the adoption place, when you bring the pet home they will run and hide. It’s new, everything looks and smells different. It’s a huge change for them. If you leave them alone, they will come out on their own. If you don’t, they’ll burrow into the corner as far back as they can and never come out.
I spent over four years revising the beginning of Piggybacker, I couldn’t even tell you where it had begun. At least a dozen times I skimmed those lines and doubted myself. The first two chapters felt like they were both decent beginnings, but not the best they could be. I tried everything: switching them around, braiding them together, changing from past to present tense. They were all wrong. I nearly gave up on the entire thing. Several times. But when I get an idea in my head I’m as stubborn as a brick wall.
Once I got out of my own way, my story found me. Literally! I was making dinner one night, not even thinking about my novel. And I’d been pondering the beginning for a few years at this point. As I was stirring my soup an idea practically jumped out at me. I couldn’t believe it. The idea was so perfect, I just had to get to work on it right away.
Everything fell into place after that. Everything. I mean, it meant yet another revision, but it was exactly what my book needed and I’m so proud of it. In hindsight, not giving up is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Piggybacker comes out January 28, 2019. If you get to read it, I hope you enjoy and happy writing, my lovelies.
A special thank you to Jacob, for hosting guests on his lovely site. You’re awesome!