Definitively Not( James )


I read a wonderful blog post about the opening lines of novels and their importance. This is very true! There’s a lot to be said of the impact you can have in that first sentence. This applies not just to books - you have a miniscule amount of time to leave a good impression and bring people in.

However, there’s quite a bit also to be said about not starting with that opening sentence. You don’t need to get it right first thing. A terrible book with an amazing initial line is just a book that everyone will read and hate.

If you can iterate, you can eventually get that amazing sentence that gets everyone to pick up what you’re selling.

John Swartzwelder, a writer for the simpsons, gives advice on the subject:

I do have a trick that makes things easier for me. Since writing is very hard and rewriting is comparatively easy and rather fun, I always write my scripts all the way through as fast as I can, the first day, if possible, putting in crap jokes and pattern dialogue— “Homer, I don’t want you to do that.” “Then I won’t do it.” Then the next day, when I get up, the script’s been written. It’s lousy, but it’s a script. The hard part is done. It’s like a crappy little elf has snuck into my office and badly done all my work for me, and then left with a tip of his crappy hat. All I have to do from that point on is fix it. So I’ve taken a very hard job, writing, and turned it into an easy one, rewriting, overnight. I advise all writers to do their scripts and other writing this way.

And be sure to send me a small royalty every time you do it.

This, of course, applies beyond just script writing. Software, products, whatever it may be - often, the biggest roadblock you will have is that initial impetus to get things rolling. Once you have something it’s much easier to make smaller improvements.

With that in mind, go forth and embrace the crappy little elf that builds the v0.1 of whatever you’re making. Then, show them how much better you can make it.