24 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Episode 4: Beginnings”

  1. A good hook probably would be in the first few sentences. You don’t need to throw a one-liner, or grab people with a stunning first sentence.

  2. @Steven: We don’t have plans to do that, and I’m pretty sure none of us have time, but it’s possible a transcription could be arranged.

  3. Lauren:
    One of the points we were trying to make here is that your book ought to open with a hook, but you shouldn’t really worry about that hook until after the fact. Think of it as a marketing rather than a literary decision: finish writing your entire novel and THEN go back to the beginning and ask yourself “what is the best way to open this book?” If the answer is “a zinger in the first line,” do that. If the answer is “a strong introduction of the conflict somewhere on the first page,” do that. There are plenty of other answers, too; every book is different.

  4. Ok, I did remember it correctly…I looked it up to be sure… “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

  5. I’m willing to make a transcript. I’m not a font of time myself, but I already took a few notes on the earlier ones. I type fast, so it might not take me much time.

    I’ll just go ahead and make one for episode 4 anyway and see how long it takes me. If it isn’t too much trouble, I can go back to episode 1 and go from there.

  6. Thanks, Matthew!

    If you’ll email the transcript to one of us, we can post it on the site here where it’s easy to find, and will remain archived with the podcasts themselves.

    –Howard (… dot tayler at gmail dot com)

  7. One problem with the transcript is that I am still completely unused to your voices and I have my own hearing problem regarding processing. I can get all your words, but sometimes the voices run together. However, I assume that one of you can put in the right names if I get them wrong or leave it blank.

  8. Thanks for your help. I really enjoy these podcasts! Maybe I’ll get to meet some of you sometime since I live in Orem, UT.


  9. What about prologues? That might be a can of worms, but I was hoping you would talk about it during the podcast and it never came up. When is a prolgue appropriate, and when is it extraneous?

  10. Really like this podcast :) Just pimped it on the blog. I got a book to review the other day with a hook that I thought was brilliant.

    It’s by Lauren Groff, from The Monsters of Templeton:

    “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace,the fifty foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.”

    Tres cool. Maybe you could do a show on names … or maybe not, now that I think of it, how would you approach the subject?! Could be difficult.

    Best wishes,

  11. Well, this post is certainly a day late and a dollar short, but something just occurred to me, and I want to get it out there, on the off-chance that someone might actually run across this.

    I have a recursive definition of a good first line: a good first line is a line that makes the reader want to know why that’s the first line. For example, in the first Mistborn book, the first line is “Ash fell from the sky.” This fits my definition, because now I, as the reader, have a question, “why is ash falling from the sky?”

    It could be I’m off my rocker, but what the heck, eh?

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  14. To the senses of something outside time, most focal points in history can go unnoticed; there may be nothing extremely spectacular about what most inhabitants of a planet consider a world shaking event.

    what do you think of this as a first line?

  15. I was waiting, literally, this entire episode to see if someone mentioned Neuromancer. That book has probably the best opening line I’ve ever read.

  16. There is an ‘author’ in The Plague (Camus) who spends the whole book (and presumably years before and after) crafting the first sentence of his novel (which isn’t particularly good). I think he was supposed to be a heroic existential character. But he serves as a cautionary mascot whenever I find myself staring at that first paragraph.

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