Learning from the Masters: Opening Lines

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I’ve already done a list of the opening lines from all my favorite books, but now I’m going to do a list of some of my favorite opening lines. (There’s a difference, though some overlap.) I’m also going to avoid the classics, since those lists are already all over the internet already.

Opening lines are so important. They’re the first taste your reader gets of your story. They need to hook, and hook hard.

So here goes. See if you can guess!

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Learning from the Masters: Voice

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I’ve written about voice in YA contemporary (twice), I’ve written about voice in YA historical, and today I’m going to talk about the voice of a writer who’s not YA at all. Because while it’s absolutely crucial as a writer to read within our genres, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from other genres, also.

So here is this week’s voice example. Perhaps we can play “guess that super-famous author/novel”…

Frannie leaned one hand against the warm metal of her car, took off her sneakers, and put on a pair of rubber thongs. She was a tall girl with chestnut hair that fell halfway down the back of the buff-colored shift she was wearing. Good figure. Long legs that got appreciative glances. Prime stuff was the correct frathouse term, she believed. Looky-looky-looky-here-comes-nooky. Miss College Girl, 1990.

Then she had to laugh at herself, and the laugh was a trifle bitter. You are carrying on, she told herself, as if this was the news of the world. Chapter Six: Hester Prynne Brings the News of Pearl’s Impending Arrival to Rev. Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale he wasn’t. He was Jess Rider, age twenty, one year younger than Our Heroine, Little Fran. He was a practicing college-student-undergraduate-poet. You could tell by his immaculate blue chambray work shirt.

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Learning from the Masters: Voice

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So last week I said I wanted to talk about something super-important in novel-writing: voice. This week I’m talking about the same thing, and showing an example of a completely different kind of voice.

In YA, you can sometimes read several books in a row all with similar voices. That’s why I love The Spectacular Now–the voice is so unique–and that’s also one of the reasons I adore Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy.

Take this passage:

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Learning from the Masters: Voice

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So I’ve written a lot about what we can learn from the masterful writers who’ve come before us, focusing mainly on the first 250 words of the manuscript. Today I want to focus on something else: voice.

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Learning from the Masters: The First 250 Words

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It’s time for another installment of this! (Click here to find installments 1, 2, and 3.)

You know how when you read advice on querying, they suggest comparing your manuscript to a published book? For my first manuscript, this was really hard to do–it’s a YA mystery, with some historical fiction, with some magical realism, with some romance, with a lot of coming-of-age stuff mixed in. I was having so much trouble coming up with a comparable book–until I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

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Learning from the Masters: The First 250 Words

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I’m still struggling with getting the beginning of my novel just right, so it’s time for another installment of this. (Installments 1 and 2 here and here).

I’ve been getting more and more into YA contemporary. Jandy Nelson, Stephanie Perkins, Robyn Schneider, Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, and David Levithan are all recent faves.

But I’d argue no one has mastered this category as well as John Green.

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