Writing works better with proper preparation and organization. I teach this to my students every semester. First, you brainstorm for ideas. Then, you narrow your focus. Then, you create a main point. Then, you outline. Then, you draft. Then, you revise. Students always want to skip right to the drafting stage and I keep dragging them back to the value of the pre-writing steps.
I am such a hypocrite. When I write stories, I never brainstorm. I never think through ideas. I never outline a plot. I just start writing. I think of a first line that catches my interest, and I think, “Huh, I wonder where that sentence will take me.”
Sometimes it takes me straight into a big, mental brick wall and I wail piteously until someone (usually my husband) comes to my aid and helps me talk through the story until we can come up with a conclusion. Sometimes I save and quit, and the idea is left to sit unfinished until I feel inclined to open it up again. Which in some cases is never.
I’m so sorry, unfinished stories. You didn’t deserve that.
I was always told that the first line is important, though, so I still stand by my inclination to be drawn into an idea by that first line.
Here are 5 first lines of stories. Most are completed. At least one is waiting for an ending. Someday. I guess we’ll see.
1. It all started the day they chased me out of the village with pitchforks.
~ The Holder Wars, Part One
2. “Be afraid of the things that go bump in the night; but be more afraid of the things that make no sound at all.”
3. When Andrew landed, the first thing he noticed was the sound his armor made when it hit the ground.
~ “Walter’s Move”
4. It is so very rare for dragons to find themselves in difficult or embarrassing situations that, at first, it did not even occur to Archemina Tansia Firestorm III to wonder if she might not be in a spot of trouble.
~ “Cupcake and Archie”
5. We probably knew that it was time to find the professor after we turned Preston into a duck.
~ “The Agoraphobic Aardvark”
My first lines aren’t necessarily my favorites every time, but sometimes it’s the first line that makes me think of the second, and then the rest of the story comes pouring out faster than I can type.
Which makes slamming into the giant brick wall others call Writer’s Block that much more painful. But when I do get something going that I really, really like, it feels like magic.
Care to share a favorite first line? Yours or someone else’s?