Red Pencil Hiatus

Red Pencil ThursdayToday is Thursday, but unless I have an author willing to put his/her work out there, we can’t have our online critique group. Sadly, I’m out of victims . . . er, volunteers. All kidding aside, I’m committed to making this a positive experience for all involved.

If you’re a writer and would like to participate, here’s what you need to do. Send me the following through the email address on my Contact page:

  • First 500 words of your WIP
  • A headshot of you
  • 2-3 sentence bio
  • URLs for your FB, Twitter, blog or website

Once I receive your material, I’ll let you know when your work will appear on my blog. Before it goes live, I’ll do the critique and send it to you for your responses. Then on your appointed Thursday, we’ll see what the rest of the online gang thinks.

I’ve had writers ask why I focus on the first 500 words. It’s because that may be all you get when it comes to impressing an agent or editor. Or reader. The beginning of a story is a very delicate time and it has to carry an enormous amount of freight.

The opening is frequently referred to as “the Ordinary World.” It’s life as your protagonist knows it, but it can’t be humdrum and you can’t wallow in it long. The opening needs to introduce the hero/heroine in a memorable way, set up the basic conflict or at least show that there’s an imbalance in your character’s life, and hit the ground running with just enough information for the reader to keep going forward.

It’s a tall order, but take one of the books from your keepers shelf and scan the opening. I’ll bet your favorite author manages it all beautifully. It’s part of why they are your favorite. And I’ll bet they spent more time crafting the beginning than any other part of the book. I’ve been known to agonize over just my first line for weeks, revising it many times.

Just for fun, how about sharing the opening line of one of your favorite books? Here’s a random sampling from my shelves. It’s from Karen Hawkins’ Sleepless in Scotland:

“There’s naught worse than a man who thinks he’s always right–‘cept a woman who always is!” ~ Old Woman Nora to her three wee granddaughters on a cold winter’s night.

Do you see how deftly Karen sets the gently humorous tone for her story? A fitting opening lets the reader relax, knowing they’re in the hands of a gifted storyteller. That’s what we’re aiming for–getting our readers to buy into the world of our story and we have to do it in the first 500 words.

Ok, now I’m heading back to work on Touch of a Rogue and I’ll look forward to reading your favorite first lines.

Attention Blog Touristas! My post is still up at Word Wenches, a group blog with some of the heavy hitters of historical romance–Jo Beverley, Nicola Cornick, Loretta Chase, Mary Jo Putney and others! There’s still time to leave a comment there for a chance to win a copy of Touch of a Thief!

2 thoughts on “Red Pencil Hiatus

  1. Emily Cotler says:

    “The young boys came early to the hanging.” The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, one of the best books EVER.

    1. Mia says:

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear about this, Emily. Pillars of the Earth is next month’s selection for my book club. Now I can’t wait to dive into it.

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