Simple Writing Tips 1: Opening Lines

The reader must begin your story with a great line, but you
don’t have to begin your story by writing a great line.

tips and ideas for writing fiction: Light bulb inside a book

Every writer knows you must kidnap your reader from their world and drag them back to yours from the first word. That’s what we’re told early in our author training: Give your reader a strong opening that sets the tone for the book.

And this is gold-plated advice. You’ll never suffer for taking time to choose the best opening spot and crafting that well-balanced, but impactful, first line.

Except…if it keeps you from getting on with writing the actual story.

Some writers get paralyzed with worry over the opening. When you’re not putting words on the page because you’re figuring out your perfect opening, you’re sucking energy from the whole enterprise.

Just write.

Write anything.

You could describe the place where your tale begins, be it an ordinary, boring room in an ordinary neighborhood as an ordinary engineer has her ordinary morning coffee. It may take three pages before the alien spaceship lands and the action intrudes into her life, but you’ve made something happen. The story is on its way and you only need to keep it rolling.

There will be time to come back and revise and search around for the opening. But the story has to go forward first. At the end, once our engineer turns back the invasion and the romantic triangle is untangled and she finally gets to finish her coffee, you’ll probably realize that the best place to start might have been not with her making the coffee, but when the coffee cup spills all over her phone from a sonic boom.

Just delete the stuff which came before she got caught up in the action.

YES, DELETE IT. Almost all first drafts start too early. Especially as a novice. You would probably end up rewriting your opening afterward anyway, even if you had spent 2 weeks finding a phrasing you liked before you wrote the rest of the story.

It’s quicker to just write through to the end. And knowing the ending, the twists of the story and the mindset of your characters, you have the knowledge to stage the dramatic and resonant opening your reader deserves.


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