“Ash dodged the puddles as he ran. He’d done it many times before, but never when his life depended on it.”
Thats the opening couple of sentences for my first novel, A Treasure Found. I’ve read a few things about opening lines and, although it’s getting there, I’m sure this will be edited many times before I’m happy with it.
The reason? Well some editors, agents, and publishers will tell you that they can learn all they can from you, and your novel, in the first chapter, first page, even opening line. With pressure like that, who can risk not spending the effort to get it right?
We’ve all read the tips about how opening lines should hook the reader, draw them in, and want the reader to keep reading. They are all valid points. But if we as writers go through all that effort and fine-tuning for such a dramatic introduction to our works, shouldn’t we expect the likes of editors and publishers to follow their own advice, and read more of our book?
I watched an episode of The Graham Norton show a couple of nights ago and he was interviewing a certain Harvey Weinstein. I admit to being quite ignorant about the film world, but Harvey seems to be a key-player in this arena so I think people tend to listen when he speaks.
One of the points he made was very interesting and it struck a chord with me and writing. He said this (not his exact words);
When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were passing around the script for Good Will Hunting, everyone knew it would be a success – to the point that film companies were falling over themselves to get signatures for the script and rights to the movie. We (Harvey) were very interested and we’d managed to score a meeting with the guys after receiving their script.
Everything was going well, until I brought up a certain point, I said to them “Looks guys, this script is very good, it needs some work but we can deal with that. The biggest issue I see is that around page 60, there’s a scene where the two doctors perform oral sex on one another. It seemed to be completely out of context for them, there seemed to be no lead-up to it and I can’t really imagine how that would happen.”
At this point, one of the guys turned to me and said “Harvey, we’ve had a few movie companies look at our script, and had a few offers, yet none of them mentioned that to us. In fact, we put that in on purpose to see how many companies had actually read the script before they gave us an offer…”
Apparently, Harvey got the deal and Good Will Hunting went on to become a very successful movie.
I think I was just so shocked to think about how much effort people will put into their writing and yet we have huge movie companies willing to offer over large sums of money for something that they haven’t yet read properly.
Still, if anything, it gives me an excuse for if an editor ever says to me, “We liked the book but we’re not sure the ending fits in with the rest of the story.”