NaNoWriMo and the First Line

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participantI have signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo in November because it seems like a perfectly plausible/possible thing to do. If you have never heard of this it stands for National Novel Writing Month because of course one should be able to write a novel in a month. The No could also stand for November since that is when it takes place, but it does not stand for “No. There is no way you will do this.”

In my history of writing, one of the hardest things I find is just getting started. I suspect that I’m not alone in this. I am doing some pre-planning (i.e., figuring out a general plot, some characters, settings, etc.) that includes reading a book written by one of the founders, Chris Baty, called No Plot? No Problem!. Mostly because it was only $1.99 for Kindle. What a deal!

Besides prep work for my own novel, I thought it might be useful to look at some first sentences of a few novels (out of the way too many) that I have at home. You know, not everyone can write a “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” first sentence. Bonus points if you know who wrote that one.

Going from oldest to newest:

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

~Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

If you saw the movie which came out in 1985, I suspect that you can hear Meryl Streep saying these very words. Technically not a novel, Dinesen published this book in 1937 about her life on her farm in Africa.


Shifting gears (you might even hear them grind here) to a book published in 1970.

It unrolled slowly, forced to show its colors, curling and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose.

~James Dickey, Deliverance

Can you hear the banjo music? Do you want to know what unrolled?


One of my all-time favorites, published in 1976, and also made into a movie with Meryl Streep (unplanned, I assure you).

In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn.

~William Styron, Sophie’s Choice

No clue whatsoever about the horrors that lie ahead in this book.


Published in 1982:

Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy.

~Isabel Allende, House of Spirits


And finally, by another favorite author, this book published in 2001:

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.

~Ann Patchett, bel canto

Darkness and beauty.

Set in South America, this is another favorite, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.


I’ve got some more planning to do!






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