Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Getting Started . . . Somewhere Special by Claudia Mills

I adored the Mark Twain line with which Naomi Kinsman opened her recent Smack Dab post: "The secret to getting ahead is getting started."

Oh, but getting started - writing that very first line of a very new book - can be so overwhelming. Even if you know you're going to change that line a dozen times before publication, this is still the moment when you are first putting pen to paper (yes, I still write my books by putting pen to paper). It's exciting, but also terrifying.

Here's what I do so that I can face the writing of that fateful first line with more delight than dread. I go out of my way to acknowledge the significance of this day of new beginnings; I celebrate its specialness by making it as special as possible.

I don't write the first line of a new book at home, lying on my usual couch, with my usual mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate by my side, and my usual cat purring on my lap. Instead, I head off somewhere else. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, I'm going to poke out my toe for that first step with some fanfare.

Back when my writing group had its annual retreat up at Lake Dillon in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, I'd try to time the launching of a new project for that glorious weekend with dear writing friends in that stunning natural setting, and I'd write its first line in their company.

I've written the first line of a new book at "write-ins" at the homes of author friends.(I'm talking about you, Jeannie Mobley and Jean Reidy!)

I've invited a writing friend to come with me to a fancy hotel and sit in its elegant lobby, nibbling on over-priced treats, for the ceremonial composing of that first line.

My favorite-ever first line was written on a family vacation to Green River, Utah. I sat in our motel room, looking out at the river, and wrote the first line of my chapter book How Oliver Olson Changed the World. That first line - which stayed as the first line, through all the subsequent drafts - was (and is): "Oliver Olson looked up at the moon."

The next time you're daunted by that very first line of a brand-new book, try going somewhere special, with somebody special. It's a special moment. Go ahead, and let it be special.

8 comments:

  1. Dear Claudia, I think looking up at the moon is a great way to start a book -- and many other things as well! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Irene! What made the line my own personal favorite of my first lines is that the moon Oliver is looking up at isn't the moon outside in the night sky - it's the moon hanging from his classroom ceiling as the third grade study of the solar system begins - which will lead Oliver, always a passive kid, to become an activist on behalf of poor excluded planet Pluto. :)

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  2. I LOVE this Claudia and what a great way to start a new project! I also use pen and paper for first drafts. Beginning a story in a special location makes the story itself special.Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Darlene. Isn't pen and paper THE BEST????

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  3. I love the idea of a rough draft moment being SPECIAL! (Usually, you think of special moments being polished and perfect...love the idea of a messy moment being special, too.)

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    1. Let's here it for all kinds of special moments!

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    1. I adore them! And even better if they involve lovely food and drink...

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