Watch this 1-minute video wherein I introduce the following 12-minute NoBlankPages video where I take you step-by-step through the editing of the first page of a novel (which is not that much different from the editing of the first page of a non-fiction narrative, so non-fiction writers, stay with us...) 12 minutes is kind of long, I know, but you'll get an inside look at what you need to do to make your opening sing. To wit:
1.) Make sure something is happening. Not the promise of something happening, but the real stress and heat of it.
2.) Make sure whatever is happening -- the action and the meaning -- is crystal clear to the reader. Is it actually on the page in a way that lets the readers in? Readers are smart, but we can't read people's minds -- neither your characters' minds, nor your mind. You may know your story inside and out, but are you letting us in on the secret? Stinginess is the writers worst enemy.
3.) Give the scene enough room to breathe. In their rush to get to the next thing, and to prove that there- really-is-so-much-cool-stuff-coming-I-promise, many writers cram to much into opening paragraphs and pages. It 's TMI and it overwhelms the work. It makes the readers' head spin. Don't make your readers' head spin. Rest in your story. Let it unfold. That is the essence of showing, not telling -- letting the situation unfold.
Tune in next week to see the revision this author did after getting my edits, and see for yourself if you think it's any better. (Hint: you're gonna be amazed!)
And if you want a free Page1 edit of your novel or memoir or self-help book, email Laura@noblankpages.com
I Think in Books
Still reading Donna Tarts’ The Goldfinch...people say it's "such a fast read." These are people who clearly have the power to stay up later than I do at night. Something that has stuck me about the writing this week is that Tart's descriptions of place are spectacular. She kept us inside the bombed-out Metropolitan Museum of Art for nearly 50 pages, took us to a dusty old antique shop for tea and conversation, and now has us immersed in a soulless, sunlit, air-conditioned Las Vegas ranch house. You can feel these places in your bones, but Tart isn't just showing off her immense powers of observation. When she talks about place, she is still telling a story. She is using place to develop character and conflict, to reflect her themes, to let the reader inside the story truth. If you're writing fiction, look at how you're using place. Make sure it isn't just pretty wallpaper.