Friday, March 4, 2011


Openings.  The elusive, much sought perfect beginning.  If you’re anything like me you’ve read blog after blog on how best to capture the reader’s, and agent’s, attention.   There is a lot of advice, much of it contradictory.  So how do we know where to start? 

It brings me back to my monthly goal of trusting myself.  I think the writer needs to know their story, know where it starts and what’s important.  I’ve rewritten my beginning several times and it could change again before final draft and polish.  But I think I’m starting in a good place, the place in my story where something happens to change the routine of the last twenty years.   I’m going to post my opening scene as I have it now and want to encourage anyone to post their opening, scene, page, or paragraph, in the comments or just tell us what you know or believe about opening a novel. 

Far From the Sea
Anna should have felt guilty. Instead, something she could almost call relief bubbled up and tried to fill the empty spot inside her.  It had been three weeks.  That was too long without the smell of brine and crash of waves. 
Chores waited back at the farm: planting, churning, washing, mending, the list never ended.  Escaping with a basket over her arm she left Ginny to do the baking, everything else would wait.  The empty basket bounced against her hip as she walked, waiting to be filled with berries and edible greens but it was no more than an excuse.  She had stayed away as long as she could.
The pathway was rocky as it followed the cliff down to the solitary cove.  No one visited except her, which was one reason why she came.  The shore was rock-strewn and uninviting. Little vegetation grew and what there was of it was short and bristly, doing nothing to soften the stark gray landscape.  But it was the ocean she came for, to breathe the salt and feel the mist on her face and arms.  Seeped into her clothing the smell would stay with her all day, a comfort and a gift, a memory of the place that pulled her.
The sun glistened off the shifting blue and green, each wave topped with white foam.  Here one needn’t work or think.   Just be.   She closed her eyes and let the sound envelop her.  Each splash and spray enticed her and she must listen though she refused to act on its siren call.   She loved the lawlessness, the crash and roar of the ocean.  The immediacy, the sheer physical presence almost reminded her what it was to feel again. 
Not even this wild, ferocious beauty could truly touch her soul.  How can you touch what doesn’t exist?  Here she felt closer to being complete than anywhere else and she let the salty air fill her lungs and the hollowness inside.
In all the years of coming here she had never encountered anyone.  Now she became aware of a presence, a foreignness, on her shore and knew she was not alone.  “Anna” he said.  It was enough.  It had been twenty years since she had heard that voice but recognized it immediately. 
“Hello Douglass” she said turning toward him.  “It has been a long time.”

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