Writing Exercise: Horrible Opening Lines

This is a fun writing exercise, just because it begs for ridiculousness.

Starting with the opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night…” and write 1-2 pages opening either a short story or a novel. You may turn out a humorous spoof of a murder mystery, or you may turn out something awesomely legitimate (although if that happens, I suggest you change the opening line!).

Of course, you could generate a bunch of drivel, but that’s okay too. Every author has a lot of crap writing in them. You have to sift through the coal to find the diamond. Some authors even advocate purposefully writing drivel in order to use up a lot of it (although you will never exhaust it all), so it becomes easier to find the diamonds.

And sometimes when you try to write drivel–when you give yourself permission to be craptastic–when you have no limits, no preconceived notions, no goals–something wonderful pours out.

When I decided to enter National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2009, I was committed to the idea of writing a cheesy, bodice-ripping romance novel just for shits-and-giggles. The next thing I knew, I wanted it to be a cheesy, bodice-ripping romance novel with vampires in it. And right after that, I decided to resurrect some of the characters and some of the plot line from the novel I had started in college, but never finished (thank God, though, I didn’t go back and read the original; I started completely fresh. I’ve since re-read it, and it was craptastic).

The next thing I knew, I had a story pouring out that wasn’t cheesy or bodice-ripping and, actually, seemed pretty damn good. I’ve since done a heavy revision and a grammatical revision of the entire book, along with revisions in spots, and I’m ecstatically happy about what I’ve turned out. (A friend recently read my proof and she said she really liked it–to the point she was staying up late because she couldn’t put it down–and she really, really doesn’t like vampires or anything to do with vampires; that makes me feel that I’ve done a good job.)

I’ve lost track of the number of people who want to be writers but never actually write anything. Talking about writing, dreaming about writing, can be very fun, but it won’t get a book written. You’ve got to write.
Laurell K. Hamilton

So what are you waiting for? Start writing your cliché drivel and see what happens!


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