So you can read my books

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

IN MY BEGINNING IS MY END_ WEP The End Is The Beginning entry

What might have been and what has been, Point to one end, which is always present.
- T S Eliot

Stephen King can spend months or even years on his opening line.

Listen to what he told me at Meilori's:

"There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. 

It's a tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft --

 I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.

But there's one thing I'm sure about:
 An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. 

It should say: 

Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."

 With really good books, a powerful sense of voice is established in the first line. 

Yet, it is not just whim that has the title of this post on first lines be a quote from T S Elliot's East Coker

I have "In my beginning is my end" start THE RIVAL and end it as well.

All through THE RIVAL that line is a foreshadowing of the ending, 

lending what I hope is depth to the climax and to all the action that leads relentlessly to the death of a major character.

Award-winning mystery author, Craig Johnson, is a master of beginnings mirroring the ending.

"My hero, Walt Longmire, is a sadder-but-wiser sheriff. 

My favorite musketeer was Athos, the heartbroken one.”

It was building his house in Wyoming that gave him the discipline to finish his first novel, he believes.
“I kind of think of it as the blue-collar school of literature,” Mr. Johnson says. 
“Never have I met a ditch digger who said,
 ‘I’m just not feeling the ditch today, the ditch muse is not with me, I have to put my shovel down now.’ ”
 Johnson tells of Longmire’s adventures from the sheriff’s perspective. 
Craig starts out with Walt reading to a first grade class from the Brother's Grimm tale of Sleeping Beauty  
that he read to his daughter when she was the age of his listeners.
The off-the-wall questions by the first graders will have you smiling and chuckling out loud at Walt's squirming discomfort. 

He accompanies his Cheyenne best friend, Henry Standing Bear, to Philadelphia, 
and then a very personal act of violence pulls him into a string of murders that he will solve or die trying.

The novel ends with Walt again reading the tale of Sleeping Beauty out loud but now to only one person.  
And the ending will tear your heart out.  If your eyes do not fill with tears, you have a heart of stone.

The ending of your novel should birth your opening line and shape all the chapters which follow. 
Only upon reaching the ending should your reader see the symmetry and breathe out low.

I hope this helps in some small way.



  1. Intriguing advice on such an individual topic and process. Thank you.

    1. I thought I would do something different this WEP! :-)

  2. Very true - the ditch digger keeps digging. All of us have days we don't feel it when we go into work. But we do it anyway. And so should we treat writing the same way.

    1. The writers of best sellers do it, along with ditch diggers and doctors! :-) Imagine if your doctor said "The surgery muse is not speaking to me!"

  3. I absolutely love Chaplin's speech at the end of The Great Dictator. Hard to believe that even by 1940, so many people didn't want him to make it.

    Speaking of Sleeping Beauty, did you read about the woman in England who thinks the fairy tale shouldn't be taught to younger children, because the prince kisses the princess without first asking her consent? Wonder how she'd feel about some of the older, distasteful variations on the story where the prince rapes and impregnates her rather than "just" kissing her. Those even offend me.

    The ditch-digger quote reminds me of a story about author Alex Haley. Haley was visiting his home town as an adult, and encountered an old man who'd known him as a child. The man said (and I'm paraphrasing all of this, since I don't remember it verbatim) "Aren't you Mrs. Haley's boy? What are you up to nowadays?" Haley replied "I'm a writer." "Really? Write something for me." Haley smiled. "It doesn't work quite like that." The man said "Maybe not, but if you told me you were a ditch digger, I'd expect you to be able to dig a ditch for me."

    1. Yes, it was quite a shock to young me when I found out the early renditions of Sleeping Beauty! Chaplin had courage at a time when many did not.

  4. without my shovel
    I cannot dig
    Still I long for the ditch
    to feel the ditch around me
    be as one with the ditch
    but without my shovel
    there is nothing but a hole
    without my pen
    can I not write
    without my mine
    I cannot write
    Does my heart
    not feel the lines
    upon this page
    speaking to you
    about my very soul
    You brought me from
    The beginning to this end and
    Gave me back my shovel to hold

  5. Hi Roland - so glad you gave us ideas re starting a book, and then making sure we tied all the loose ends up before it finishes ... that bit is so often 'a let down' ... I do hope you can have a peaceful Christmas time - take care and all the best Hilary

    1. Hilary, may your Christmas Season be healing and happy!! :-) Tying up the loose ends in books and life is so hard.

  6. Hi Roland. First lines, first scenes, first chapters, are all so important. I like the quote: ' is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.' So true. We need to return to our opening sentences again and again. I love that Margaret Mitchell re-wrote her Chapter One of GWTW 60 times. Now that's dedication.

    Looking forward to seeing you on my rounds.

    Merry Christmas!
    Happy New Year!

    Denise :-)

    1. Christmas car wrecks and end of year surgeries are keeping me from the blogverse even more than usual. I am lucky to even visit my own blog this time of year!! Thanks for visiting me. :-)

  7. I have read this before about opening lines; that they should reflect the story premise, and prelude the end. This is very good advice. I have a hard time with beginnings, and it seems I need to revise several drafts before finding the perfect opening.

    And sometimes, i do write the ending first.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and much success in the coming year.

    1. Sometimes it is good to have the ending (horizon) before you as you set sail with your novel, right? Best of Christmases!

  8. I like your last two lines,
    Only upon reaching the ending should your reader see the symmetry and breathe out low.
    I tend to say breathe out low and slow regretting that the book has ended.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a successful crossover into 2018.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

  9. Good advice. I've read something similar before this post. I like the Craig Johnson novel you used as example. I like his books but a read a wide variety of genres. The symmetry between the beginning of a novel and the ending gives the feeling of coming full circle, a feeling of completeness. Happy Holidays and I wish you a great New Year.

    1. mple. I like his books but a read a wide variety of genres. The symmetry between the beginning of a novel and the ending does give the feeling of coming full circle, a feeling of completeness, doesn't it? :-)

  10. Great advice for writers. Thank you, Roland.
    Happy holidays!

  11. I haven't read the Longmire books but have watched the entire series on Netflix. Love the character and his sidekicks.

  12. Blogger is acting up. :-(

    Yes, I think all of us want our readers to end, wishing there were more chapters or more to come! :-)

    Happiest of Holidays to you, too!

    The books are better. I enjoy listening to the audio books in the Longmire mysteries as I do my blood runs. And in the TV series, you never meet Dog, the constant canine companion of his beloved human! :-)

  13. You always have excellent advice, Roland, and I like the fact that you refer back to other writers for your inspiration. Hope all is well with you and that the Holidays are relaxed and peaceful for you. Do you still have your feline buddy? Take care if you're still driving about with those deliveries.

    1. I try to help and not hurt. :-) I believe best-selling authors might know a bit more than me on how to write well! Midnight is still with me, urging me to drive safe ... so I get home in one piece to feed and play with him!! I pray all is much better with you and yours. May this Christmas be much better than you expect.

  14. Great advice. I hope you're feeling well soon!

    Wishing you a the Happiest, and healthiest of New Year's!