The Trade Tuesday: Is Your Opening Lame?
I read a lot of submissions. A LOT of submissions... I also read a decent amount of books that have already been published. Do you know one of the main differences between many of the submissions and the books that are already published? The openings of the published books. They're not LAME! Harsh, maybe, but don't you want someone to be honest with you, especially when a publishing contract is on the line?
"It was a sunny day with puffy white clouds that looked like cotton candy". Yeah, I'm falling asleep. Telling me about the weather has been done over and over and over again. Heck, that line, which I just made up, is probably the actual first line of twenty books out there. I don't care about the weather. Maybe if it's raining gold coins or there's a tornado of razor blades, but sunny days and white puffy clouds are incredibly boring.
"His eyes opened slowly as the sun seeped through the partially drawn curtains". If the dude read that first line, he'd probably fall back asleep. It's a really lazy way to open the book. Oh, and if you happen to have the same dude look in a mirror so that you can unload a paragraph of description that details every freckle, scar, and tattoo, you've officially graduated to sloth level. Please, for the love of keeping writing a dignified task, STOP! If you're going to have a dude waking up as your opening, how about he wakes up in a body bag or sitting in a secret nuclear submarine or at the President's inauguration? Waking up in bed is so, so boring unless the dude is being attacked by deranged Chihuahuas. Okay, maybe not being attacked by deranged Chihuahuas, but you get the point. The only circumstance in which it's okay for the opening of your book to be a dude waking up is when he's waking up to something extraordinary. Even then, you can still probably find a better opening.
I've saved my personal (LEAST) favourite for last. The classic "hey, I just met you, and here's my whole life story that I happen to be pondering silently. I'm definitely crazy so call the looney bin!" (Pardon the terrible attempt to parody an equally annoying song.) Seriously, I've read things where I'm surprised the girl didn't just happen to be thinking the exact number of fries she had three years and seventy three days ago and the outfit she was wearing while eating. A little thought bubble every once in a while is okay, especially if the thought bubble is laced with sarcasm and about to explode with snark. However, don't use one as your opening, and I forbid (to quote Kevin O'Leary and to channel his all powerful grumpiness) to write a three page long thought bubble. Do it, and you're dead to me. Guaranteed.
So...I feel better now. Hopefully your opening is stellar. Many submissions that I read do have really great openings, don't get me wrong. Make sure that yours is unique. It doesn't really matter how, but make it interesting. No rainbows and sunshine, unless of course the rainbow is actually poison gas launched by a crazy dictator or the sunshine is a super laser. ;)