Nailing the opening and ending of a novel are the two most difficult aspects for me. Those first words are like a thesis statement, and I have to work them constantly to get just the right feel for the novel.
I'm still playing with the paragraph. It has morphed at least five times in the last week. Each time I open the story to work on it, I read the first paragraph anew and tweak it slightly.
Last week, it looked like this:
The world began to fray the year the twins were born. Summer rolled out all hot and close. Crops wilted in fields that cried for water. The people wore the burden of living like a yoke. They poured their blood into the soil. What grew couldn’t be named or eaten. Famine was a dirty bitch with yellowed fangs, but the hunger she put in a belly bit sharp.
Wild things walked the woods. Their howls could be heard in the dark. The game fled. The people resurrected the dead god and put him back on his cross.
Now it looks like this:
The year Travys turned into a ghost, summer devastated the land. Crops wilted in fields that cried for water. The lowborn poured their blood into the soil. What grew from those rites couldn’t be named or eaten. Famine was a dirty bitch with rotten fangs, but the hunger she put in a belly bit sharp nonetheless.
I am at about 13,000 words right now. That number will shift and merge as I eliminate the more contrived beginning that I used to get into the story and characters with the new material. For me, writing is constant rewriting. In this first draft, I am more concerned with character motivation and moving the plot forward. When I find clumsy or clunky sentences, I mark them. I also dot the manuscript with comments so that I don't forget motivations or plot-lines. Once I've established a strong beginning, the ending usually writes itself.
I stumbled on the theme of the The Broken Road over the weekend. It is all about knowing your proper place in the world. The novella is turning out to be a strong mix of horror and fantasy. Since I am not writing this piece geared toward any particular magazine or publisher, I'm not worrying about someone else's idea of "marketability." I'm giving myself the freedom to write without constraint.
And I'm starting to have more fun with it because of that.