Tim’s got a post up where he looks at the first lines of his novels, and it got me curious at to what all of mine looked like. No doubt there’s a hell of a lot of other huge differences between where I was when I wrote my first book and where I am now, but first lines are good snapshot.
And so: Novel Gazing
The Cat-Eyed Queen (originally titled, The Queen of Gwenedyned. No, don’t ask me to pronounce it). Written sometime in 1991/1992. About 30,000 words. Almost, but not quite, a YA novel. At 12, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable way to start a book:
The girl ran through the hallway of the castle.
The Thief Queen (originally titled Quill). Written sometime in 1992. 22,000 words, so more like a novelette than a novel, but I wrote it like a short book. Look at me learning to write interesting, though still cliched, first lines! This was about the time I was starting to read Writer’s Digest:
Fear had always come first.
Marianna. Probably written in 1993. Unknown word count. I used to write up all of my books long hand, and this one I never loved enough to actually type up. This one starts out just as dull at Cat-Eyed Queen because it deals with the same girl who was running through the castle, and she tended to having boring get-gos:
Yolanda looked out of the little window.
Quilliam. Written in 1993. 45,000 words. This was the first and last time I tried to write myself into a book as a character; the “historian” of all things, though I don’t think it occurred to me at 13 that I was going to major in history. Anyway, the historian was pretty boring, as indicated by this first line:
Faiten sat down, pen in hand, paper ready.
The Queen’s Gunpowder (originally titled Faiten). Finished this in 1994/95 sometime. 70,000 words. You can tell I had a subscription to Writer’s Digest at this point…
You knew something was going to happen.
Rogue (originally titled Driamyne). Wrote this in 1995-1996. 90,000 words. What can I say? I was bad at description. I needed the practice:
Blistering sun scorched the golden plains, battering down at the flat expanse rolling on for as far as the eye could see.
Silver Fire. Wrote this from 1996-1999. It was the first attempt at what would become my huge-crazy fantasy saga. I initially planned 15 books. After bad experiences with Jordan and Martin, I’ve decided I can do it in 5. 160,000 words. I no longer had that Writer’s Digest subscription:
“Do you remember shadows?” the voice murmured; his father’s voice, deep and afraid.
Brutal Women. 2001-2003. Based on a short story I wrote at Clarion. I wrote the first half, maybe 40-50K, and tried to sell it by sending out the partial to editor slush piles and assuring them it was done. The ones who did reply form rejected it out of hand. Still one of my favorite first lines, tho:
Nalah buried her babies in the cold silt somewhere between the mountains and the sea.
The Dragon’s War (originally titled Beyond the Shadowed Sea, To the Dragon’s Wall and The Dragon’s Wall). 1999-2005. This was a ground-up rewrite of Silver Fire. Literally, I tossed out the first book and wrote another book with characters whose names sounded sort of similiar and who ran around a place with similiar geography, but the rest was a new book from the ground up. I had some interested agents, one of whom requested several rewrites, but I could never get it to a place where anybody wanted to buy it or sell it. First draft: 200,000 words. Final draft submitted to editor/agent folks: 119,000 words. Not a bad little first line, but it took me six years and 80,000 dead words to get there:
The invaders came in on the morning tide, and drove before them a sea of roaches.
Over Burning Cities. 2004-present. Book 2 in the 5 book series that starts with The Dragon’s War. I have five or six chapters and an outline. It’s on hold until I can sell The Dragon’s War.Yes, I stole the idea for this line from the first line of Ash. Also one of my favorite first lines:
They would say her scars made her beautiful, and what the cats had left of her half-breed face was wholly Dhorinian.
God’s War. 2003-2007. 90,000 words. Yes. This is my favorite first line EVER:
Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the Desert.
Black Desert. 2007-present. Sequel to God’s War. I’m about halfway done, and hoping to have a draft to first readers by October:
The smog in Mushtallah tasted of tar and ashes; it tasted like the war.
Who needs Writer’s Digest now????
What does this summary of first lines have to tell me?
I’ve gotten a fuck of a lot better, yo.
Can’t wait to see what I’m writing in another ten years…