You might have noticed that there are a lot of activities on Creative Writing Club where you have to write the story from the most exciting part – or from the middle, or from the bit with a big explosion.
Well, you may be surprised to hear that many books are not written in the order that they are read. That is to say – not all writers like to start writing their books on page 1 and end on page 190 (or page 420 if you are J.K. Rowling).
I often like to dive in somewhere at the middle of the story, start writing and mess around a bit. The reason for this is that the beginning of a book can be a really tricky part to write. It has to be exciting – but you also feel that you have got a lot of explaining and setting up to do. Plus: the first line can be a difficult line to write. No pressure then!
I remember deciding to have a go a writing some of what was to become my first graphic novel London Deep – in the middle. It wasn’t till after I’d got more confident with the character that I wrote the first line:
“The radio said the price of air was going up again, and then it died. Jem decided there was nothing on the news worth winding the radio up for anyway….”
This line is a bit of a nod to the famous writer of 1984 and Animal Farm – George Orwell. I am going for a dystopian feeling – I want the reader to be able tell that something mixed up and crazy is happening in this world. It’s also making the reader ask questions. Are the government really charging people for the very air they breathe? (Actually no they aren’t but it makes you read on) There is also the slightly weird idea of having to wind up the radio. Why is Jem doing that? Is there a power cut?
If you read on, you’ll find out that electricity is very scare in the world of London Deep and lots of things work on ‘wind up’ electricity – even the police radios have to be wound up!
Am I boring you? Sorry! Anyway the point is that there is a lot going on in the first two lines of a book. Beginnings like this don’t always come easy (well not to me anyway). It was probably a good job that I didn’t sit down and wait till I could write a polished first paragraph – there might not have been a London Deep if I’d gone down that route! For me it is far better to write something than nothing. And so I start with something atmospheric or an action sequence rather than put the pressure on myself and start at line 1 of page 1. If you’re interested, as I recall, the first section that I wrote in London Deep was a scene where Jem is trapped in a sinking prison cage called a Keep. You can check out the beginning of London Deep below.
Download a pdf of London Deep: LDeep_Ebook_9781906132712