Monday, January 26, 2015

First and Last Lines

A year or so ago, I read some advice on writing out the first and last line of every chapter in a list (if this was on your blog, please give yourself a shout out in the comments for me!).

I don't remember all the reasons, but as I'm reading through my NaNo novel, I'm keeping track of these lines in a file within my Scrivener folder and I'm finding some interesting things.
  • only a few of my first lines really stink
  • some of them are even pretty good
  • my last lines are often very short - 1-3 words
  • my characters are pretty sarcastic
  • putting the 1st and last lines together gives a great summary of the chapter's emotion
  • reading the list through gives a great sense of the story - and of the pace (which I always need help with). Much more helpful for editing than I expected
Doing this has helped me see I've grown as a writer too. I'm coming into scenes later and exiting earlier - trusting in the reader more. (Thanks to my fabulous CPs once again!!!)

Have you ever tried this? Any great first or last lines to share?

37 comments:

  1. There was a blogfest a few years ago where we had to post our first and last lines! It made for fun reading. I think first lines in particular have to grab a reader, they should be unusual. Seeing them in isolation helps!

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  2. I haven't tried this, but it sounds like a great idea! I think my last lines would be very short, too.

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  3. I have not tried this, but I think I might. It sound pretty interesting. Also, I think I have a tendency to end my chapters in a particular way, and this might help me see if I go to that particular well a little too often. And like you and Elizabeth, I think my last lines would tend to be short.

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  4. No, but it sounds like a great way to tighten up the lines if needed. (Since that last line needs to entice people to the next chapter.) Sarcastic? Yeah, got that covered.

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  5. I never heard of this but it sounds like a great idea. I'll have to try it.

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  6. I've never heard of that either but I'm willing to give it a try with my current manuscript.

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  7. This is an interesting analysis! I love what you discovered about your first and last lines, and I think you'll be able to use that information to your advantage. Scrivener has a lot to offer, doesn't it?

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  8. I've never tried this but now I'm going to with my WIP. Thanks for the idea.

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  9. Hmmm, an interesting exercise. It is hard to resist telling the reader how to feel and what to think. Hard to remember that readers like to do that on their own.

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  10. The first and last lines are always important. I love this idea!

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  11. I don't remember ever hearing of this idea before- but it doe sound intriguing. I loved hearing what you learned from doing it. I am going to give this a try! :)
    ~Jess

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  12. Nick - that's it exactly! The isolation helps a lot! :)

    Elizabeth - it was more enlightening than I expected!

    Jeff - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned!

    Alex - love sarcastic!! I'm just never sure if mine comes across well :)

    Natalie - I've found it great!

    Diane - it's fun and surprisingly helpful!

    Karen - you're very welcome!

    Lee - it really, really does!

    Susan - you're welcome - have fun!

    Yvonne - I know!!! I love to spell things out ... sometimes twice :)

    Chris - it's fun!

    Jess - have fun with it - it's great!

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  13. Great suggestion, Jemi. I always think of first and last lines of a book, but not necessarily of chapters. I'll be sure to try this exercise!

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  14. My earlier attempts at writing had horrible first and last lines. I've improved greatly, thank goodness. I'm very aware of them today.

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  15. Beth - it's been helpful so far!

    Medeia - that's awesome - I'm getting better too :)

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  16. Hey Jemi,

    How's it goin, eh? Would that make a great first line in paragraph?

    I do seriously believe that the first line of a book and the last line of a book should tie into the overall ambience.

    I also know that the title works better if it's catchy.

    Gary :)

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  17. Sounds like a neat idea and a catchy way to see how the story is going at a glance.

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  18. I've never tried this, but it sounds like a great idea!!

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  19. Gary - absolutely true! :)

    Mason - I'm enjoying it!

    Jamie - it's been helpful so far!

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  20. I like this. What you said about the lines giving a good summary of the chapter is exactly what I was thinking. I might try this. :)

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  21. I haven't done this in a while, but I think I want to do it again. It definitely gives a good overall feel for the writing flow.

    Thanks for the reminder and thanks for sharing! Maybe we should do this as a blog hop again some day (there was one that I remember a long time ago).

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  22. What an excellent idea. I'm going to check through my lines on my latest today.

    I just started listening to an audiobook that has three awesome first lines in the opening:

    "I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting for driving without a license was. I wasn't too clear on what being arrested meant either" (Chapter One, p. 1).

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  23. Shelley - it's so interesting. I can tell what the whole chapter is from those lines!

    Tyrean - that's a great idea - it would be fun!

    Theresa - that's an awesome example! Love it!

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  24. This is a fabulous idea! I'll have to try it on some of my WIPs.

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  25. Good idea to do this with your WIP. Might try it sometime.

    I just started reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy (as a personal pledge to read some classics) and the opening line hit me: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way...."
    Pride and Prejudice also has a memorable opening line... and Fahrenheit 451.

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  26. I like this exercise. I'm going to do it to my current WIP. Great post.

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  27. Well, I hate to sound like an echo but this really does sound like something worth trying.

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  28. Belle - awesome - it's been great for me!

    Michelle - Those are awesome! I always quote the F451 line - It was a pleasure to burn. Love it!

    Stephen - hope it helps you out too!

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  29. Linda - echo away, my friend, echo away! :)

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  30. I love this suggestion. I'm going to give it a try.

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  31. I haven't done this before, but I think I'm going to try it.

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  32. Carol - I hope it helps you out too!

    Catherine - have fun with it!

    Nas - it is - wish I could take credit for it! :)

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  33. I like this idea, especially to see the book's pace. I'll have to give it a try.

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  34. Kelly - it's been great!

    Lynda - I'm surprised how it's helped!

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