I finished reading Stein on Writing.
Last week Stein spurred me to rewrite my culminating scene with more tension. I’ve also talked a bit about how he inspired the ultimate conflict in my novel.
This weekend I spent an hour working on a new first paragraph. Stein’s last section in his book was on the art of rewriting, of the need for multiple drafts, and how we must be ruthless with ourselves. He convinced me to cut the first 1100 words of my manuscript. It was something that I always knew but didn’t want to admit to myself: my opening was weak, and I didn’t want to read it. And if I don’t want to read it, then why would anybody else? The first sentence was good, but the rest of the page didn’t live up to the expectations it set. So I just did away with all of it and started at the second scene.
For the sake of posterity, here’s the old first sentence: “Rahab was almost sixteen when she convinced her parents that the best solution to her problems was to run away from them.”
The new one heads us in the direction of the title of the book, Into the Flames. This opening reads: “Rahab Carmichael scrunched her eyes closed as she slouched lower on the splintering bench, trying to eradicate the image of the burning orb from her mind.” It’s not set in stone. In fact, I’ve already changed it since I pasted it into this post. But I think it already conveys more of what I want.
With no surrounding context (other than the title), which would you be more likely to pick up and read in a bookstore? What kind of expectations does each set in your mind?