How to Write a Great First Line

The first line of a story has a major job—to catch the attention of the reader. The right reader. As a writer it is, arguably, the most important line we write. So how do we write a great first line? The Job of the First Line If the job of the first line of a story is to catch a reader’s attention, then all it has to do is shock or be surprising, right? Well, that may work for some stories and some readers. But it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the right way for the story you write today. The most important job of the first line is to hook the reader, but it’s not the only job of the first line. The best first lines also introduce a writing style, a mood, a theme, and hints at conflict to come. Now, not all of us can write the perfect first line. But we can learn techniques that will give us a great first line. No One Right Way I’ve said it repeatedly. Every writer must find what works for them. The biggest shocker is that one way won’t work for every story written by the […]

Dirty Little Secrets to Writing a Good Story

In my post Two Secret Rules for Writers, I said the secret was that there isn’t a secret in writing. I may have to take that back. The truth is there are dirty little secrets to writing a good story. One secret? There’s probably no new story under the sun. Why? Are we writers’ incapable of an original thought? Heck no! The originality comes from the blend and the bend of the story as told by that particular writer at that particular time. Stories come from the stories we have consumed (read, heard, or viewed). So they are all a melding of a ton of different things. Study Story To write the best stories one must study the masters. Study the successful stories. What makes them tick? And how can I use that in my story? Pantsers decry outlines and story structure to their story’s detriment. The way the human brain processes story demands a structure we can recognize. You don’t have to start from an outline, but whatever you write must have the parts in it to be successful. Mish-Mash I’ve mixed bits and pieces of Westerns and Space Opera and Thrillers and mythology. Yes, they went into one […]

Re-visioning Again

It’s summer. I’ve got a book going live in a couple of weeks and there are family issues to attend. So, this Wednesday post is directing you back to an eight-week blog post series I wrote a long while ago. It’s my version of revising your manuscript. I call it re-visioning. Re-visioning Your Story: week 1  Revision is probably the single most difficult thing a writer must do. Now, I know some of you are going to remind me that there are those who advise not to revise, except to editorial demand. I believe there are some writers out that who have so internalized the process that for them there is little or no revision needed. I’m not one of those writers . . . yet. Am I an expert on revision? I don’t claim to be an expert. Or to know THE ONE WAY to revise. But, I have done a lot of revision – the wrong way. I have also read tons of how to write books and blogs, and taken more than a few classes. I’ve had a few stories published and I have taught a few writing classes. So I’d like to share what I’ve learned […]