How pretentious

Like many people I am on various social media platforms, to keep in touch with people I know, to find information about local matters and national and international news, and as part of particular interest groups – writing (obviously), local interest, books and reading,  history, recipes and food oh and loads more! One of the writing groups I’m following at the moment is very keen to support  writers with new projects and help them progress what they’re writing through the advice and suggestions from the members. There are different topics on aspects of writing, and one of them is opening lines for a story, for example, a short story – perhaps for a competition, a novella, a novel, or maybe a piece of writing for the writer’s own entertainment, pleasure or personal use.

It’s made me think about beginnings, opening sentences in stories and novels I have written, and how really hard it is. I remember with one novel I wrote, I had the most perfect opening lines and I was so proud of that introductory paragraph.  I would tweak it and polish it, and when I was editing I just hoped that the rest of the book was as well written. I usually read my novels out loud to myself as part of my editing, and as I read this marvel of splendid writing, the words died on my tongue and I almost blushed as I realised what pretentious twaddle it was (I used a stronger word than twaddle) I suddenly saw that it was completely alien to my usual style and way of writing and that if I’d picked up a book in a bookshop and read that opening paragraph, I would have put it back down with a shudder. I deleted it and rewrote not just the paragraph, but the first few pages, ditching the high-flown nonsense for my usual ‘voice’.  I had been trying to write like a non-specific someone else – not one of my characters, but ‘the writer’ but not me the writer. I was writing to impress (gosh how I failed to impress even me) instead of telling the story.  It was a shocking lesson, but once I got over the shock I had a good old chuckle at how pretentious I’d been – I know I’m repeating myself, but yes, how pretentious I was for those important opening lines!


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