Writing Meme: The First Line Challenge

Which I totally stole from Tumblr, only I couldn’t manage to follow it all the way back to its source.

Rules: Share the first lines of the last ten stories you published, and talk about what they do or don’t have in common.

I don’t have ten published works, but I can muster seven if I include in first lines of my WIPs, along with their current state, so I can examine the difference between my polished work and my drafting process.

Grace and the Greek Warrior (serialized fiction, 2015)

Grace flashed her membership pass at the counter, but it was a formality, because Saturday mornings it was Glen in the booth, graying, cranky-happy Glen, and he knew her by sight.

What We Need to Survive (published novel, 2015)

Paul kicked a rock out of his path, watching it bounce and skitter down the highway.

[I did an entire blog post on how much work it was to get to this first line. Check it out.]

What We Need to Decide (published novel, 2016)

Nina sat beside Paul in front of the fire and waited for him to tell her what was on his mind.

What We Need to Rebuild (published novel, 2017)

The first thing Nina had to do was get her hands on her backpack.

Unnamed NaNoWriMo 2017 project (incomplete rough draft, 2017)

Lucas Grimstad hadn’t expected anything as spectacular as a high-speed car chase down Main Street to enliven his first day on the job in [unnamed small town], but four hours into his decidedly low-speed patrol of the downtown area, on foot, he needed a break.

#rockstarnovel (second, incomplete rewrite draft, 2018)

Rob turned the corner into the park a few paces ahead of Avery, the sound of a basketball dribbling reaching his ears.

#spookyromancenovel (first, incomplete rewrite draft, 2019)

Someone was banging listlessly on the shop door.

Conclusions? My fully revised and edited first lines are shorter and more direct. I have a tendency toward long, complex sentences if left to my own devices. (What, you hadn’t noticed? Really?) I will, especially in a rough draft, tend to overload my future readers with too much information.

The stand-out exception to that pattern is certainly #spookyromancenovel. If the current first scene makes the cut, honestly, this spare line will likely survive as the opening to my novel. Because it’s romance-horror (or at least as much horror as I can manage to stuff in a romance) I wanted to start off with an ominous sensory detail right away, and I have.

Also, I’m cringing at that #rockstarnovel line, in hindsight. Yeah, it’s the second time I’ve tried to rewrite the damn thing, but its first chapter in this stage is new, so it’s rough-draft quality. And I’m still not sure I’m starting the story in the right place.

I wish I had more to share, but the only other project I could even find kicking around was a two-page draft of a story idea I had in 2015 and hadn’t looked at since. Seriously, the date I last opened the file was August of that year. I’d actually completely forgotten it existed, so it’s not worth showing, because I’m not at all invested in it now.

Officially, I’m supposed to tag people, but y’all know I rarely do that formally. So if you see this and want to join in, go for it! Either link back to me, so I’ll see it, or drop me a link in the comments, because I’d love to hear what you think of your own process when you examine your first lines.


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