Here’s the reality: your first words are a loaded gun that is going to shoot one of two people in the face: your reader or YOU!
What do you with your first sentence? With your first paragraph? With your first page? With your first 5 pages? With your first chapter? If you have not been strategic and put tremendous thought into each of these, you are kicking yourself in your special place! Is that a saying? Look, people are inundated with writing. The internet is beyond full of it. Readers take about two seconds to determine if they’re interested and then they either give you two more seconds to impress them further, or they move onto something else. When it comes to the words you choose, you have to be so intentional! If you’re writing fiction, you had better start in the middle of a “holy shit” moment of conflict. If you’re writing non-fiction you had better knock my head off with a fact that I never would have believed had you not shown me the light!
Disclaimer: When you’re a famous writer with tens of thousands of devoted fans, you’ll get a little bit of leeway. People will be willing to wait a bit longer for your brilliance. But if you are grinding out your readership one at time, and if new readers are imperative to the building of your brand, you have to pull them in quickly. Anything less is the kiss of death. And THEN you have to give them a twist to keep them on the page! Drop a bucket of butterflies on their head. Wouldn’t that feel pretty — all those butterfly kisses? Or stab them in the belly with a six-inch, hot blade and gut them up through the chest. Evoke emotion! But wield that knife with tender care, a surgeon’s precision, and the smile of circus clown. I just creeped myself out!
People appreciate authenticity, too. So don’t be afraid to be your whacky, insane, or offensive self when you write. As long as you have a point and you lead them to it! Don’t be cheeky without a point – that’s simply irritating. Writing is a place where you should have fun and say all those things that are inappropriate in real life. I learned that actually as an actor. All of the arts are the same. Self-expression must be uninhibited to be full of the life that makes it worth experiencing.
So enjoy. Access that part of yourself that scares even you. And write. Write every day. String those words together until you’re impressed. Then call it drivel, throw it away and try again. Repeat that recipe a dozen times and you’ll probably be onto something…