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April 8, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

in which I follow my own advice…

So I decided to listen to my own advice (I generally try to do this, I swear!) by revising my first page for The Last Onest (or TLO).

Back in July 2010, I encouraged my readers to revise their first page. To recap, it was after I’d listened to Ally Condie speak.

At the WIFYR conference, author Ally Condie was really brave and read us two versions of the first page of her upcoming novel, MATCHED. The first version was the original that she sent to her agent. And after hearing it, I thought it was pretty good and got us into the world. Then she read the first page from her ARC, the one that she revised for her editor, and it was AMAZING. Seriously, I was blown away with the vivid imagery and I felt like I was actually in the story.

I was actually really happy with my first page for TLO. I had made minor revisions, mostly to add setting (my personal weakness in all my drafts!), but I’d never changed that first paragraph. It just felt so strong, and all my Beta readers agreed with me. I’d even won a few contests based on that first paragraph alone, so I had to be sitting pretty, right?

But while I was listening to Markus Zusak’s amazing motivational speech at the Provo library a few weeks ago, a new first line came to me. I’d been trying to make my book more literary (and beautiful) in prose in this revisions, since my book totters between an action science fiction story and a literary one (leaning more towards action). And somehow Markus inspired this amazing first line that reflected that literary quality I wanted, and gave focus to my whole first chapter.

And after revising that chapter, my original first line, as amazing as it was, is no longer part of it. So here in remembrance is my ORIGINAL first line.

The clock read 10:54 and thirty-two seconds when the soldier came into my fitness class. I knew the exact time because I only had one minute and fifty-four seconds left to hack into the Military’s database before the Intelligence Unit would be all over my case.

I’m too nervous to post my new first line yet, because I’m just not as confident. It doesn’t give your gut a punch, like this one did, and it takes a few paragraphs to get into the situation. But it REALLY fits the overall feel I want for my book.

So thank you, dear Ally Condie and Markus Zusak, for inspiring me to do better.

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7 Comments

  1. Kathryn Roberts / Apr 8 2011 8:12 am

    Yeah, I remember that. I was in the same class with you listening to Ally read. I guess I missed something because after she read her ‘first’ first chapter I was about to applaud. I thought it was fantastic. And then she read her new first chapter and I was blown away. And felt pretty stupid at the same time. It just goes to show something can always get better.

  2. Chersti Nieveen / Apr 8 2011 8:15 am

    Kathryn – That’s exactly what it was! I was all for clapping after the first version, too. In my head, I seriously wondered how it could get better . . . And then it did! Ally is such an amazing author, and her writing is just so elegant. I’m so grateful for the pearls of wisdom she shares with us!

  3. Leisha Maw / Apr 8 2011 8:17 am

    I can’t wait to hear your new first line! 🙂 It must be a good one to take the old one’s place.

  4. Chersti Nieveen / Apr 8 2011 8:20 am

    Leisha – Gah! I’m just too nervous at the moment. I keep thinking: what if it’s really not better? And what if it’s just better when in context, but not stand alone like my other one was? Sometimes I worry way too much about my story. But this revision has really encouraged me to make every sentence shine and become better – so hard but oh so worth it!

  5. Carolyn Frank / Apr 8 2011 8:23 am

    I can’t wait to hear your new first paragraph. I was thinking my first paragraph of my WIP is pretty good, but I’m always open for inspiration to make things better. Thanks for the insight.

  6. Chersti Nieveen / Apr 8 2011 8:49 am

    Carolyn – Great point! As authors, we should be very open to changes that make things better! (Especially when it comes from creative geniuses like Ally Condie or Markus Zusak!!) Hm… maybe I will post my new first paragraph. 🙂

  7. Greg B / Apr 8 2011 3:24 pm

    Wow, great original first line. I’d love to see the new one! And good advice–I think it’s hard to make those big changes without having some sort of inspiration, which you clearly did. Very cool. And thanks for the update on the Bad Guy Rules from last post–I haven’t ever written those out before, they just kind of take up space in the outline. Making them clear and separate is a good idea!

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