At 40K words, I shared my opening paragraph of my NaNoWriMo novel – “Kill Words” . Below I have shown it again and explained the edits I have made so far. The first sentence of a novel is hugely important but the first paragraph in my opinion is usually the ‘make or break’ that determines if a reader goes on reading. That is the case for myself. When I open a “Look Inside” on Amazon, if the tone and intrigue is not there in the first paragraph, I’m not likely to go on. Sometimes I’ll open a random chapter and see if it catches me, but not often.
BEFORE Edit; First Draft, opening paragraph:
I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.
The Edits and why:
Removed – “The revered matriarch of the family” – Telling; I don’t need to state this; that is clear by what follows.
Removed – “They called her Gerty,” – Telling; it works better to just start calling her “Grandma Gerty”
Changed- “I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes” – ‘I guess’ is soft compared to the revision ‘the truth is” since this is establishing the character’s belief and state of mind; it needs to be stronger. ‘even then’ not as defined as ‘when I was born’ – again this is a judgement she feels she’s been under from day one; a key point to make.
Changed – “She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens” – the sound of ‘upstanding citizens’ seemed out of character voice and telling. Adding in how grandma herself was a success (a point needed further in the story) works better.
Changed the accomplishments of some of grandma’s children to be more descriptive — this all may get cut; still on the fence if it pulls the reader out of the story. Let me know what you think.
Added in another statement of the character’s main concern in life at the start of the novel. This of course drastically changes!
AFTER Editing opening paragraph:
I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.
I hope you have found this editing session helpful in your own editing adventures. Let me know what you think. You’ve “Looked Inside”. Do I need to edit again?
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