Friday, September 30, 2011

It Only Takes Two Notes...

So, I'm watching the t.v. show, "X-Factor" (when there's time away from grading, of course ;-). And this week's auditions had a frumpy, non-descript, average-looking 30-year-old trying out. He slings burritos for a living and brought his mom to the audition. By all appearances, it seemed his audition would probably not go well.

But then, he opened his mouth to sing. And it literally only took two notes to convince the audience (and a doubtful Simon!) that he had the talent. He had the X-Factor. Out of this frumpy, unassuming frame came the most soulful, raw, earnest voice. Absolutely amazing.

And it made me think: isn't it the same with writing? Can't we, as readers, often tell whether we'll like a novel within the first two pages -- maybe even the first two paragraphs?

So, as writers, we must see the importance of beginnings. First impressions are vital. That's why you'll hear, over and over, advice about making that first chapter, that first page, POP. You want it to be memorable. Irresistible. You want to hook the reader. Of course, the rest of the book should have that high standard of quality, as well.

But the first few pages could either gain you a loyal audience, or help you lose them altogether.


  1. I got here by accident and read your stuff and thought that "when there's time away from grading, of course ;-" was a little too coy and dissembling, but anyway that is of no matter. The matter is your cheerleading razz-ma-tazz about writing. I see it as a little one-sided and deceptive. I've been there and I've done that and I think your charges should know there is more. Writing is not enough. It is not enough for too many of us. But the nice thing about this site is that it inspired me to write a little piece for my own blog, something I had neglected for months.The essay can be found at It is about writing and I would appreciate it if you would put it before your students as balance to your enthusiasim.

    Blessings on your work and good luck.

  2. Steven, thanks for the visit and I'm glad that something I might've said inspired your piece (I read it and liked it - very thought-provoking).

    As for my "cheerleading," yes, absolutely, I tend to focus more on the positive than negative here in this blog (or, to address the negative in an upbeat way) BECAUSE writing/getting published is so challenging and can be so heart-breaking.

    I figure that there are plenty of writing blogs out there who choose the opposite route - who can't seem to find much in the way of hope for writers. And I guess I like to offer a little hope.

    So, I choose an inspirational tone (and, as a teacher, I do seek to inspire) while still delivering some truths (well, they're my truths, as the whole thing is quite subjective, isn't it?).

    In the end, to each his own, I guess...