Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Beginnings: A Guest Post by Marybeth Holleman


Marybeth Holleman is author of Heart of the Sound and co-editor of Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment. Her essays, articles, and poems have been published in a wide range of journals, magazines, and anthologies. She has taught creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and has led intensive writing workshops across the state.  Her 49 Writers course, "Beginnings: A Workshop" begins Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m.

What can I say in this first line that will entice you, dear Reader, to keep reading this post? That's the question we'll be exploring in the class "Beginnings" which runs two Saturdays, April 2 and 9, from 1 to 4 pm.

I'm sitting in an internet cafe in India. This morning I walked with cows on Om Beach. Today we fly to Jaipur to ride elephants up to the Amber Fort, and later we'll travel to a wildlife reserve to search for tigers. Yet telling you this does nothing for a story. If I were to write about this trip, how would I begin?

We writers feel our good stories inside us, and it's often disheartening to learn that no, this or that journal or publisher is not interested. Most of the time it's not the story, it's the writing; it's that first line or paragraph that either makes or breaks it. What can we learn about how to begin our stories so that their greatness is revealed?

We all were taught, when we composed our first resume, that most employers rarely get beyond the first page. This is true of publishers and agents as well. I once had a writing teacher who said writers often back into their stories, so in revision he had us consider cutting the first two pages of every draft.

We all know some great first lines by heart: "It was the worst of times, it was the best of times" We know one when we read one. So let's take a close look at some, let's practice them together. Let's get our stories read beyond the first line.

1 comment:

Tele said...

Well said! Such a challenge, to find the right hook to open with. You clearly succeeded... Wish I was in Anchorage to take your "Beginnings" class!