First Lines by Deb Mia

First things first: the winners of last week’s post contest, “Harmony and Balance” can be found at Mia Musings. A big mahalo to everyone who entered — it was a lot of fun!

One of the best tools I’ve come across to jumpstart your writing is first lines. I was first introduced to it by Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones. It’s one of the first exercises, or free writes, that I use with my creative writing students.

If you’re a writer, I invite you to spend 3-5 minutes doing a first-line free write, right here. Or try it at home and tell me how it worked for you. Just choose the sentence you like the best, and start writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or fabricated (we’ll treat it all as fiction) …

My hair was too short.

We drove for hours.

She always took the largest piece.

His name was …

I could hear the ocean.

Mornings should not be so complex.

Keep your pen moving or your fingers typing; don’t stop to edit or think. Just remember to stop after 5 minutes. Part of what makes this work is the short burst of time in which you get to free write, to let it all hang out. It pushes the mind to focus, and also lets the mind know there’s a finite, easily achievable amount of time in which to write.

Feel free to email or post with any questions, or tell me what you do to help jumpstart your writing. Have a wonderful, wildly creative day!

6 Replies to “First Lines by Deb Mia”

  1. I’ll go first!

    I could hear the ocean. She was talking about a fair at the boardwalk, only $5 a ticket, kids free, what a deal. But in the background I heard the sound of the ocean, of waves crashing and rolling away, and for the first time in months, I wished I were there.

    The invitation was always open, of course, provided I listened to her complain about our mother and sympathized with whatever recent transagression had occurred. Our mother never checked with her first, she kept M&Ms in her pocket, she called too late at night to talk to the kids. And just last week, she had bought my sister a dress two sizes too large – what was our mother thinking?

    All I had to do was tsk or cluck, because we both knew I couldn’t answer that question. Our mother didn’t call me to talk with my kids (I had none), nor could I remember the last time she had bought me anything …

  2. Mia, I have something like this (the title eludes me at the moment), but it’s a deck of cards that you shuffle, choose one and start writing. What also works is having one of your characters write an email. That’s not only fun, it’s enlightening.

  3. I can get obsessed with first lines. My two favorites:

    The classics:

    It is a truth universally acknolwedged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.

    And the less classic (from Rachel’s Holiday) that’s actually a cheat because it’s three lines:

    They said I was a drug addict. I found that hard to come to terms with — I was a middle-class, convent-educated girl whose drug use was strictly recreational. And surely drug addicts were thinner?

  4. What a wonderful post! I love WRITING DOWN THE BONES.

    I use free writing a lot when I’m feeling stuck. I like to do it on HUGE sheets of newsprint. I switch pen colors for each suject I take on. Sometimes I doodle… draw pictures of images from the book: rabbits, sheriff stars, etc. and this sparks more writing. I love having the big paper to work on. I also use the newsprint and colored inks to do storyboards instead of a traditional outline.

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