Starting something new is always exciting. That’s why I really like January, (apart from the dreich weather and hurricane winds that have caused major roof leaks in my house!) it’s the month of new beginnings. The beginning of a new diet, an exercise routine, or even a novel.
One of my fellow students posted on Facebook that she wrote the first line of her novel at the stroke of midnight. She’s kidding us on that it starts, “It was a dark and stormy night…” We’ll need to wait for her workshop submission to find out the real opening line.
But her FB post made me think of the best way to start a novel. I think every writer obsesses about making an impact with their first sentence. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but that doesn’t apply to first lines. One of my favourite well known opening lines is,
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth” – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger.
But the best beginning that I’ve read recently was from a brilliant book- Precious by Sapphire- “I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver.” I was immediately plunged into the world of an illiterate black girl who has never been out of Harlem and is pregnant by her own father for the second time and kicked out of school. The novel is a fantastic exploration of abuse and deprivation but also totally uplifting. Read it! I dream about being able to write such a powerful story.
But what got me writing in the first place? It was another FB post that got me thinking. It was a post by a new literary magazine for students in Scotland called Octavius. They aim to bridge the gap between being an unpublished student and submitting to professional magazines and journals and accept work of any genre and looks for writing which is fresh, unique and exciting.
Their FB post asked for a photo of your desk/laptop/outside of the library you work in, etc, and a brief description about what being a writer means to you and details about what made you start writing. This was my reply.
I don’t have a proper desk, so I escape to my
boudoir bedroom to write at my dressing table. But don’t be fooled by the
pink laptop and flowery décor, my writing can be dark and gritty.
I started writing when my best friend gave me a lovely notebook in 2006 for my birthday. The message inside read, “I would love to buy a novel by you. I’m sure you have the talent and wit and ‘experience’ to make it a great read. Thought you could keep some notes here. Have fun. Love Veronica x”
I love a challenge and her encouragement was the trigger to write my first novel. Almost six years later, I’m now working on novel number three and have finished the first semester of a MLitt in Creative Writing.
Turns out my pal gave me the best present ever-belief in me that I could write something worth reading and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to give her a special mention in my published novel…