Featured Author Sophia Gholz May 2019

Sophia GholzRevision and Opening Lines

Whether you’ve spent months researching a story idea or an intriguing character has just popped into your head, typing the first words on a blank page can be intimidating. Let’s be honest, writing is hard and those first few lines are often the hardest. Thankfully, we don’t have to share our first draft or the second or even the third. The revision process allows us the opportunity to dissect and polish our stories. We just have to put that rocky first draft on paper to begin with.

When I started writing my book, The Boy Who Grew A Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, I went through many drafts and struggled with the opening lines. I’d spent weeks researching Jadav’s story and had a general idea of the direction I wanted to go, but I couldn’t quite figure out the best approach in the telling of this story. In nonfiction, it’s important to be honest, while still crafting a storyline that readers connect with it. This was the opening line of my first draft:

By a river in India, Jadav Payeng is planting.

While that statement is honest, I wasn’t sold on that line. I felt like I could pull the camera back even further to establish more of the location. Plus, I didn’t think this opening fully set the mood I was hoping for. In fact, that sentence is actually a good example of “telling” the reader what is happening, without providing much else. That line might be factual, but it also wasn’t very exciting and told us nothing about Jadav’s motivation. What is so special about someone planting and why should the reader care? Where is the hook?

Some might feel that I’m reading too much into those nine words. But, as a picture book writer, I have learned how important each word is in a manuscript. Every single word has to be imperative to the story when working with word count limitations. We have to ask ourselves: Is each word or line establishing mood, the setting or character development and does it move the plot forward? On my next draft, my opening line read:

On a river island, in India, there was a beach where nothing grew.

The Boy Who Grew A Forest by Sophia GholzThis opening sentence certainly is a little more exciting. It establishes an island as the location, and it creates a little bit of mystery. A place where nothing grows? Hmm… But that sentence immediately sets the reader on the barren island location, and I needed to rewind to set things up before arriving in this particular place. I felt like, at this rate, I might spend the first few spreads talking about the island and why things aren’t growing, before even having the chance to introduce Jadav and his mission. A few revisions later, my new opening line was this:

On an island, among lush forests, farms and families hard at work, Jadav Payeng dreams of trees.

Now we’re getting a little closer. I’m packing more into the opening line by creating a fuller setting, while simultaneously introducing Jadav and his dream/motivation. However, I felt like this opening line left room for some confusion. If Jadav is among “lush forests”, why is he dreaming of trees and not out playing in them? I also knew that I wanted to establish India as the specific location, while showing how large this island is. I wanted to start with the camera zoomed out as far as possible and then zero in on Jadav. So, a few full manuscript revisions later, my final opening line became:

In India, on a large river island, among farms and families hard at work, there lived a boy who loved trees.

By removing Jadav’s name and referring to him as “a boy”, I felt like I had distanced the reader slightly and maintained a bit of magic and mystery. By switching “dreams of trees” with “loved trees” I felt that Jadav had more of a concrete reason and motivation for every single action to come. If he had just dreamed about trees, his motivation didn’t feel as strong. Most importantly, however, I was able to use this new line to launch more naturally into the direction I wanted to take this story:

The boy loved trees because [show the reader why trees are important, which sets the stakes]…and therefore…[the stakes lead right into a call to action]…

In other words, this final opening line accomplished what I needed it to, while providing a springboard for the rest of Jadav’s story.

One might look at my different opening lines and think that they’re all similar or that any one of them could have worked. And maybe they would be right. But, for me, I knew I had to keep at it until everything clicked. Each of us is different in the way we think about and craft our stories. But the consistent factor among us all is how important the revision process is. If we don’t allow ourselves the time to write and then rewrite, we might not ever know what our story’s true potential is.

Writing isn’t about that first draft or the second or even the third. Writing is a process of learning where we want a story to go and how best to get there. Through revision, we are able to chisel away at our stories like a sculptor with a piece of stone. Are our words moving the plot forward, maintaining mood or building character? Will our readers read past that first line or close the book right away?

Our first draft is like a rough geode pulled from the ground. Inside, there is a sparkling surprise. We just have to get there.

 

Sophia Gholz is a children’s book author, a two-time Florida Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Rising Kite Award winner, the managing owner of www.RateYourStory.org, and a board director at www.KidLiteracy.org, a nonprofit organization focused on early literacy initiatives. Sophia writes fiction and nonfiction for children of all ages. Her debut book, THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST: THE TRUE STORY OF JADAV PAYENG was recently released and has received starred reviews and been featured on numerous lists. For more, you can find Sophia online with the links below:

Website: www.sophiagholz.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sophiagholzauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/sophiagholz

Sophia is offering an amazing prize this month! One lucky winner will get 6 submissions passes to Rate Your Story, plus access to the members-only newsletter through the rest of the year! Get cracking on those manuscripts and revisions!

This Post Has 410 Comments

  1. Sophia, I LOVE that you told this story! I am all about THE TREES just like Jadav Payeng! I just launched my newest book on Earth Day called And The Trees Began To Move! Because YES! They are THAT important to write about!

  2. I ordered this book recently and can’t wait to read it.

    I love how you’ve taken us step by step of how you polished the opening line. That first sentence is so important. And then, of course, every word should count. Revision, revision, revision.

    Thanks for an interesting and informative post, Sophia.

      1. Yes, I did. Your book is beautifully written and as a lover of trees and nature, I really like Jadav’s story.

  3. How timely for me as I adjust the first line of a manuscript my agent and I are about to send on sub! Thank you so much for sharing your thought processes.

  4. Sophia, this helpful post really shows the work that goes into the revision process. That opening line is so important, and even though we love our words we do need to drill down until they convey the truth of the story. Congratulations on your book!

  5. Thank you for sharing different versions of your opening line. It was fun to see it grow. And congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I still find it so helpful to peek inside the process of other writers. It’s interesting how we all approach the same thing in our own unique ways. Best of luck and happy writing!

  6. Loved reading about your journey of opening lines. Sometimes that first line comes to you first, but often you do have to go through several revisions before you say, “Eureka!”

    1. Thank you, Barbara. I have a few manuscripts where the opening line remained the same throughout. It’s rare, but when that does happen it is pretty magical. Happy writing to you!

  7. Beginnings can be so hard! I often just put “something” down as a place holder and just keep writing. Then I go back an re-write (and re-write and re-write) the beginning lines as the story evolves. Thank you for sharing your process with us and congratulations on the book!

    1. Thanks, Heather! That “place holder” is a vital step in our writing process. For me, the entire first draft is usually just a place holder that will eventually change again and again.

  8. Thank you for sharing some of your many first lines! Congratulations, and I can’t wait to read it!

  9. Thank you for sharing your first line revision process. I like where you ended up. Can’t wait to read the whole story.

  10. Thank you for sharing your editing process! It’s easy to imagine that it comes easy for everyone else! 🙈

    1. I still feel that way, Michele. I have to remind myself that the books I read with ease, were probably the most difficult to write. I can be quick to think: “oh, it must have flowed so naturally for this author. Why is it so hard for me?” But easy reading often means masterful writing, and that takes time and effort. Best of luck to you!

  11. Thanks for the great post! I really appreciate seeing the evolution of your opening line. It can be a tricky process!

  12. Sphia,
    I’ve been struggling with rewriting my first line of my PB bio so your column was perfect for me. How to get the most out of the least luscious words? Thanks for your insight.

  13. I love how you showed how to work and rework your first line into the springboard for your story. Congratulations on this beautiful book.

  14. Thanks for sharing this evolution, Sophia. I can’t wait to read the second line…and all the rest.

  15. Sophia you are so right about working out where the story needs to go. Thank you for sharing how you worked with this process. Best Wishes!

  16. Sophia, thank you for taking us through your process and giving us a glimpse of the time and work you went through until you came upon the satisfaction line.

  17. Sophia, this is great post! Thanks for sharing your process. I can’t wait to read your book!

  18. What a treasure to read about the thought process behind your opening line Sophia. I am so pleased that your beautiful story is out in the world. We need more Jadav’s in the world.

  19. Sophia – thank you so much for sharing the thought processes you went through (and your first line drafts) when crafting your final first sentence. I often struggle with the first sentence because I know it has to be spot on or we’ll lose the reader. With your process in mind, I am now planning to go back and review some of my first sentences. (I want that book too!!)

    1. Thank you, Kellie! Those first lines are important and so hard sometimes. Remember, just get something–anything–on paper to begin with. Everything else will come in revision. Best of luck!

  20. Thank you, Sophia, for this post. I particularly enjoyed the concrete examples that you provided. Showing how your first line progressed was extremely helpful and explained things in a way that pure description couldn’t have. In that way, it’s an example of showing not telling in and of itself. Happy revising!

  21. Really interesting to see how your first lines changed at each revision, and how they can really suck the reader into the story from the get go. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  22. Loved seeing the several versions of your first line and your thought process as you revised. Thank you, Sophia.

  23. Sophia, your sage advice about expecting “rocky first drafts” is spot on! Your analogy of how to keep tapping at that “geode” to find the gem of a story reminds us that good writing is a trek, a long journey that takes perseverance and continued belief in ourselves as writers and illustrators. As I research picture books, I’ll be asking how the opening lines establish the story’s mood, setting, character, or direction. While revising, I’ll keep in mind how “opening line launches the direction of the story.” I look forward buying, reading, and sharing your debut book. Tossing confetti your way! Right now, I’m sweating through the 20th revision of a PB story, one that 12 x 12 Participants have applauded with much encouragement to continue. I trek on! And, thanks to your candor and willingness to write this blog, I have Post-It notes of Sophia Gholz quotes decorating my home office. My favorite of yours is the following: “Writing is a process of learning where we want a story to go and how best to get there.” May you continue your writing journey with success and fulfillment! Cheers!

  24. It’s so helpful to be able to see someone’s process like this, thank you. It’s making me rethink a few opening lines of mine…

    1. I have always loved peeking into the process of other writers. I still find it so helpful to see how others work. It’s amazing how different we are in our approach, but the same in our goals of good story telling. Best of luck to you, Carrie, and happy writing!

  25. Thanks so much, Sophia. You’re comments have prompted me to go back through some of my manuscripts and see how that first line has changed — and, perhaps more importantly, think about why I made those changes.

  26. Thanks for giving us a peek into your revision process! It’s a great reminder of how important that first line is. Also, your book looks gorgeous and is on my “to read” list.

  27. Thank you, Sophia. Excellent post. A great way to show the process of an opening line. I’ll be looking for your book! (I’m a member of RYS, so if I win, I’d be happy to gift your prize to another writer.)

  28. Thank you, Sophia! I love how you shared the evolution of your first line. I think it is so helpful to see inside the mind of an author and how every word truly makes a difference.

    1. Thanks, Aimee! I still love it when other authors lift the curtain and give us a behind-the-scenes view. It’s so helpful to see how others work. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  29. I loved following the logical progression through your choices, Sophia. Thank you for sharing this! I have not yet read your book, but am looking forward to discovering the “rest of the story.” I did request it through the San Francisco Public Library. They now have six on order. Cheers!

    1. Six on order? Wow! That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing, Jilanne! I hope you enjoy the rest of Jadav’s story, too. Best of luck and happy writing!

  30. I am looking forward to reading The Boy Who Grew a Forest and enjoying the fruits of your labor. Thank you for giving us a glimpse at your process and and showing us how you’ve developed your craft.

  31. Sophia – thank you for the verbal tour through the many iterations of your first line. It was fun to watch it grow and become more lyrical as you figured out what you wanted it to do. You provide an excellent reminder of the power of words, especially in picture books.

  32. Thank you for sharing how you grew your story’s beginning. This example is great for showing how important the beginning line is to a book.

  33. Thanks for sharing your draft beginning for The Boy Who Grew a Forest. It is always helpful to read other writer’s strategies for improving that most important opening.

  34. Thanks so much for showing us your process on coming up with your first line. It’s definitely something I need to pay attention to. Looking forward to reading your book!! It sounds super interesting, probably because I love other cultures and trees too! Thanks for the encouragement that our rough drafts are geodes. That was a great visual

  35. Sophia, I love the way you analyzed your first line to come up with a gem! Thanks for your post.

  36. Thank you for the great post, Sophia. It was helpful to see the progression of your revisions laid out. I just put your debut on reserve at the library and can’t wait to go pick it up! Congratulations!

  37. Thanks for sharing your thought process, Sophia! So interesting to see how different authors approach a story.

    1. Thank you, Wendy. I’ve always found it helpful to take a peek at the process of other writers and am happy to be able to lift the curtain. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Happy writing!

  38. This was helpful for my first lines and hook and leaning to the next part; what is the problem?
    I will look over my manuscripts and see if I can make them better and more of a hook that draws in the reader.
    Thanks.

  39. ” If we don’t allow ourselves the time to write and then rewrite, we might not ever know what our story’s true potential is.” Thank you, Sophia, for your insight. Congratulations on your new book! I look forward to reading it.

  40. Sophia, Thanks for your specific examples of how you changed that first line, gradually over time, as you worked through the revision process and discovered what you wanted to say. It takes time and patience and a willingness to experiment and change. Thanks for giving us insights into your process.

    1. Thank you, Marty. The writing process is an experimental one. I’ve always found it interesting to see what works for some and not for others. I hope my post was helpful and am wishing you happy writing!

  41. Sophia, this is a wonderful post. First lines and last lines are so difficult to get just right. I liked reading how you came up with your final opening line. Thanks for sharing!

  42. I enjoyed reading about your process for tweaking an opening line. It made a lot of sense – and made me feel a little less crazy for laboring over my own “springboard” lines!

    1. You’re not crazy, Krysta. Well, maybe I should say that you’re just not any more crazy than the rest of us. 😉 It’s so important that our springboards have the perfect amount of bounce and are aimed at the right angles. Cheers to great revisions and happy writing!

  43. It was really interesting to follow your thought processes working through that crucial opening sentence. I’ve always tried to have my openers be interesting, but this gave me a lot more to think about–and try. Thank you!

  44. Sophia –

    Your story was very inspiring. I feel like I am constantly revising and tweaking and sometimes completely starting over on some of my stories. Your process makes me feel a little less nutty for doing so. Thanks for the insight!

    1. In general, the life of a writer is a pretty nutty one. But that doesn’t mean you are nutty yourself. It’s all just a part of the process.

      I feel like I am in a constant state of revision. Even when my contract was signed and the text was approved, we made minor tweaks right up until we went to print with this book. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe we are all a little nutty. 😉

      Best of luck and happy writing!

  45. Thanks for sharing your process, Sophia. Opening lines are tricky. Sometimes they pop right into place and other times (most times!) they need wiggling and jiggling. It was very helpful to see the different versions of your opening line and your analysis.

  46. Loved how you took us through revisions of the first line. Your comments are a reminder that we need to keep striving for words that speak to the reader and keeps their interest. Thank you.

  47. Thanks for sharing your insights about your opening line. It’s so important. Can’t wait to read your book.

  48. Sophia, like so many have said, I appreciate you sharing specific examples of your first line revisions and sharing your thoughts as to why you kept revising. Thank you too for commenting with meaningful insight to each of our fellow writer’s
    comments. This ongoing dialogue is a treasure too!

    Congratulations on the many ways you are promoting children’s literacy. I look forward to reading your debut book with my grandsons someday.

    1. Hi, Brenda, thanks for reading and for your kind comment. I’m glad to know you found my post helpful. I try to be as accessible as possible for my fellow writers. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the help and guidance from others. I hope that you and your grandsons enjoy the rest of Jadav’s story. Thanks again and happy writing to you!

  49. Congratulations on your debut book! I look forward to reading all the lines after the first. Thank you for sharing the process of the first line revisions.

  50. Thank you, Sophia, for sharing how revision can get us to the just the right words we need in our stories. Your first line revisions were a wonderful example. Can’t wait to read your book!

  51. I was so drawn in to Sophie’s thinking process and iterations of that story opening! I have a nice little collection of notes to apply to a future draft. Congrats, Sophie on this publication!

    1. That’s wonderful to hear, Trisha! I’m so glad my post has been helpful. Best of luck and happy writing to you. I look forward to seeing your name on the shelves!

  52. I love your analogy of first drafts being like a geode and that we have to keep chipping away at the crusty exterior to get to the sparkly middle. I think you’re right about how vital those opening lines are, too, in order to keep a reader reading and not closing the book before they get to the sparkly middle. An excellent reminder – thank you.

  53. Sophia- this post is so wonderful! It is incredibly helpful to see your process and I absolutely love the geode analogy! I’m thrilled to see your beautiful book out in the world!

  54. Sophia, it was so interesting and useful to see the way you thought about each opening and what is did and didn’t do. I appreciated that under-the-bonnet/hood look. What a great lesson in continuing to push oneself. Thank you.

  55. This was an interesting glimpse into your mind. A couple of times, I read your “new” first line, had a thought about it, and then read below that you had the same thought! Thank you for sharing part of your process!

    1. Thank you, Carol! Sometimes we can feel crazy when we analyze a single line for so long. We’re left wondering what we’re missing? Are we overthinking? What do we do? Gah! So, it’s nice to hear that you also felt the same about each line as you read my post. Maybe I’m not crazy after all…or maybe we both are. 😉

  56. How interesting to see all the various forms of your opening line and how it evolved. Thanks for taking us through your process!

  57. Sophia,
    What a fabulous post! Loved seeing your process for getting that opening sentence ” just right”!
    Can’t wait to read your book!
    Lucy

  58. Love your description of your process, Sophia! Sometimes we have to refocus that camera lens again and again. Writing a picture book is so much like making a film, establishing that opening shot, broad focus or narrow.

  59. Sophia,

    What a great post combining opening lines and the revision process. Both topics were super important to where I am in my writing journey.

    Thanks for giving one lucky 12×12 member such a super gift!

  60. Great post, Sophia! Thank you for giving us a peek at your publishing journey and for sharing your insights on how important first lines are!!

  61. Thanks for the insights Sophia — I just realized that my opening line was way to “telling” and not enough “showing” plus, not evocative enough. Your blog put things into perspective.

  62. I was pretty sure I commented on this when it was posted, but just in case I didn’t, I want to be entered in the rafflecopter.
    I love this book and it was so cool to read the process Sophia went through as she revised her opening line to perfection. I love that she shared not only the different options of opening lines but why she thought certain elements worked and others didn’t. Great insights!

  63. This is such a great motivator to keep looking for those perfect first words. Thanks for the inspiration!

  64. Sophia, thanks so much for sharing your zoom-in, zoom out process, with such articulate assessment of what didn’t work and what did. The book sounds lovely–much success with it.

    1. Always a fan — I remember sitting next to you when this story got it’s first award as a little fledgling manuscript 🙂 I am sure there will be many, many more now that it is fully developed and out in the world! Stay on your path — I am sure you will soar!

  65. Thank you for this informative post! We just got The Boy Who Grew a Forest from the library. I am very excited to read it.

  66. Great post! First lines are so challenging. They hook the reader and set the tone for the whole story. Thanks for sharing this. I can’t wait to read your book–sounds wonderful!

  67. Thanks for this great post Sophia. I love looking back at how much first lines have evolved. I “collect” great first lines to turn to as inspiration when I’m stuck!

    1. Angie, I also have a nice collection of openers that I like to go back and read when I’m feeling stuck on a manuscript. I still find it so helpful to dissect how other authors have crafted their stories.

  68. I love that idea of a “story’s true potential”. It feels very true and fits with how some stories seem like living things with a mind of their own!

  69. Thank you Sophia for all the great advice!! I love that you gave us some examples of how your story changed as you revised!

  70. I always have trouble with the first line or just how I should begin the journey – whether it’s a story or an illustration, there are so many ways to tell a story. Sometimes it can be crippling. I second guess myself on whether or not it’s the right way to go and then I just stop or I have several versions that are all different. It’s a tricky thing to get it just right, that’s for sure! Thanks for the examples and the knowledge that I’m not alone. 🙂

    1. You’re not alone at all, Debbie! That second-guessing is such a tricky thing to navigate. We have to learn to listen to our gut when something might need improving, while also telling our gut to be quiet when we finally choose our story’s path.

  71. Sophia, Thanks for the post and letting us know how coveted word space is on the land of Picture books. Every word must fight for its place on the book especially the first few lines (hook).

  72. Congratulations on a beautiful book! It’s a great story, and I loved hearing about your process for crafting the right start. I shared the book with my family, who enjoyed it because my husband’s name is Jayadev, and also because of the inspiring message.

  73. I enjoyed seeing the thought process you had for your revisions. First lines are hard! I tend to worry too much about them without having the rest of the story down. But I’m learning to have a decent one and come back to revise it later. Looking forward to reading Jadav’s story.

    1. I totally understand, Mary. It took me a while to be able to write without editing along the way. But if I stop to edit immediately, I tend to get too hung up and can’t move on. Now I just place words–any words–to get the story out first and come back later on.

  74. This is so incredibly helpful. I’m bookmarking it for all my future NF manuscripts. And congrats on the book!

  75. Sophia –

    I was staring at a blank page myself this morning….very intimidating…thank you for sharing how hard it is!

    1. It never gets easier, Shelly. But you do get more used to putting place markers (any words) on the page to get the story out, and having confidence that you’ll come back to sculpt the story later. Best of luck and happy writing!

  76. Thank you for this post, Sophia! It’s so helpful and fascinating to get a glimpse into your revision process.

  77. Thank you for validating how hard PB writing is and sharing insight into your process, Sophia. I really enjoyed learning about all that you put into just the first line! (I love the whole book, by the way.)

  78. So interesting to hear about the process of how other writers work. I sometimes find myself in the opposite situation where I have an opening line but not the rest of the story, and have to coax the rest of the story out of my brain over time.

    1. I understand that dilemma, too! I only dissected my first lines in this post, but the same goes for every other line in a picture book. Each word and every sentence has to land with just the right punch for that moment or scene. Picture books are hard, but so worth the effort when it all comes together. Happy writing, Sam!

  79. Sophia, your blog post is so spot on! Thank you so much for not only sharing your varying opening lines, but also why you revised the way you did at each stage. I enjoyed how you compared the description of the opening page/line to the opening screen shot in film/TV — fantastic ! Wishing you much success!

  80. This is such great information, thank you! I always learn so much when I can see specifics about an author’s process. What a fantastic book!

  81. I just read your book from my public library. I actually read it before I read your post. I appreciated you taking us through your first lines. I really enjoyed your book and the story of you choosing the best words. Thank you!

  82. Thank you, Sophia! And congratulations on your book success, so exciting! I’m scrutinizing my first lines with fresh perspective, thank you.

  83. As a nonfiction writer, I really appreciate your thoughts on revision. Can’t wait to read this book!

  84. Wow. The journey of that opening line really inspired me. Sometimes I know I am close but not there yet, and your whole process made me even more aware of how we instinctively know that. I love trees and nature and look forward to reading this book. Thanks so much for your encouraging words.

  85. I loved reading about the changes to your opening line. Sometimes I cannot move past that first line like a song where the tempo of the music has to be just right. I feel encouraged and inspired. Your language is fabulous and I can’t wait to read this book since I am a nature lover.

  86. Thank you for sharing a bit of your experience in creating this book. Your words are motivating and remind me that a good story will find its way home.
    I have been working on a non-fiction story for over a year now. Though it’s been enlightening and fun, I always wonder if it’s ready enough to be sent out into the world.
    I eagerly look forward to reading your book and getting inspiring vibes to keep going and not give up.

    1. Thank you, Srividhya! I’m glad my post was helpful. I worked on THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST for over a year and then eventually set it on the back burner while I focused on other projects. It wasn’t until my critique partners encouraged me to be brave and send Jadav’s story out that I finally did. It’s so hard to decipher when a story is ready and when it needs more work. But we eventually have to jump. Best of luck to you and your nonfiction journey!

  87. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the time and effort it takes to share your process. I find the family of children’s authors are extraordinary people who are willing to help other writers. Thank you. Terri

    1. Thank you, Terri! I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for this wonderful community and other authors who were willing to help along the way. I’m happy to take every opportunity I can to do the same. After all, we are are in this together! #TeamKidLit

  88. This is a great post. I’m excited to read your book. I’m requesting it for purchase at my library.

  89. Thank you for a great post on your process and challenges in creating this beautiful NF book. I can’t wait to get it from my library. (A bunch of others beat me to it).

  90. Thank you so much for sharing your process! It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to write the perfect opening line from the start. It is a journey. I love the topic of your book. Wangari Maathi is one of my heroes.

    1. Thank you, Bridgett! Writing is such a journey and we have to constantly dig ourselves out of that “perfection trap” as we go. Every line is worth polishing, but we eventually have to take the leap and let it go. Happy writing!

  91. Thank you for your post, Sophia. And congratulations on your new picture book!
    I was especially helped by your rationale for revisions on the opening page. You clearly showed how tone, perspective and mood change with small word changes. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I’ve always enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse from other writers and still find it so helpful. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Cheers to happy writing!

  92. Sophia, I can’t wait to read what follows such a well-thought out and crafted opening line! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your debut picture book!

  93. What a treat to see your revision thought process. Thank you, Sophia, I can’t wait to check out your book!

  94. I’m saving this as a rubric for first lines “We have to ask ourselves: Is each word or line establishing mood, the setting or character development and does it move the plot forward?”

    Thank you!

  95. Thanks, Sophia, I have been working on my beginnings and have been astonished at how the right beginning can send the story off on the perfect path – often to the point of having to rewrite the rest of it lol :).

    1. Yes! I have made it to the end of a draft and then discovered I needed to rewrite the entire manuscript because the opening was all wrong. But it’s that process that brings out the best in each story. Keep at it!

  96. Openings are so hard!! I typically start in the middle just to get warmed up and go back and write the beginning when i’ve got the middle and the end done. Great article!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! I say start wherever your gut leads you. I usually start a manuscript with only a few lines here or there and then begin to fill in the wholes after that.

  97. Thanks for walking us through how you crafted that first line. It was so interesting to get insight into your process. Your closing message really resonated with me too: “Our first draft is like a rough geode pulled from the ground. Inside, there is a sparkling surprise. We just have to get there.” Very motivating! Thanks!

  98. Thank you, Sophia, for sharing this revision process with us. I often wonder if my first line is the hook I want it to be. The book sounds beautiful.

  99. Wow Sophie thank you for your post and showing us how important first lines are. I’m off to look at the first lines of my picture books :-).

  100. Sophia! I learned so much from this study of the first line and your revisions. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  101. I loved reading all the first lines you went through before choosing the one! Thanks for the insight!

  102. I totally agree with the importance of every word! All my life I’ve enjoyed puzzles, and I approach a revision as a puzzle I want to solve start by examining the “forest” for clues, and then I proceed to the trees. It’s such a feeling to find just the write combination of words that give you a little shiver when they are just right. thank you for the opportunity to enter the Rafflecopter!

    1. Yes! The approach to a story is much like the approach to a solving a complicated puzzle. You have to find just the right pieces and place them just so. Great analogy, Sheri. Happy writing to you!

  103. This is a great breakdown of an important part of the revision process. Thanks for shining a light on your method!

  104. I love your line, ‘I knew I had to keep at it until everything clicked.’ It’s a good reminder to never settle and how important every word is. Thank you for sharing! I just requested for my library to carry your book.

  105. Thank you for sharing all your thoughts about first lines Sophia. And the importance of making wevery word count!

  106. Thank you for sharing all your thoughts about first lines Sophia. And the importance of making every word count!

  107. Oh those tricky first lines… and second lines , and third lines 🙂 So interesting to hear about your thought process as you wrangled with the opening of your book. A reminder that indeed, it does not always flow naturally! It’s OK if you are struggling with finding just the right words. Thanks Sophia for a very informative and inspiring post.

  108. Thank you so much. Your explanation is the first example of showing, not telling that actually gives meaning to the concept. Can’t wait to read your book. Best to you.

  109. Thank you for sharing your first lines and your thinking behind them. Really applicable to a manuscript I’m working on now.

  110. I love the way you talk about chiseling away at our stories. It was a master class in crafting the best opening.

  111. I loved this glimpse into your thought process while revising! And the analogy to the camera pulling back to set the scene was so helpful. You really demonstrated how every word in a picture book counts. Thank you for sharing.

  112. Sophia,

    Revision is so hard. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see behind the curtain of your revision process, and for walking us through your steps. It’s so helpful to see specific examples of revision and talk about what works and doesn’t. This book looks beautiful. I can’t wait to use it as a mentor text. Thanks again!

  113. And don’t you just laugh when people think that writing a PB is SO EASY! Ha! I loved reading your thoughts about your process. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with sales.

  114. Wonderful post! I loved reading the different first lines and how you used the camera lens idea to focus in on the details you wanted to show your reader.

  115. I like the way you explain the mechanics of crafting the perfect sentence. It’s one small example of the art of crafting a well-written picture book. It’s truly a talent. Great job and thank you for sharing your process!

  116. I enjoyed reading about how you developed your opening sentence. I have taken a workshop where the presenter emphasized to just get the story down and then worry about the details when your revise.

  117. As you said in your opening paragraphs, thankfully we don’t have to share our first drafts – but I so appreciate you sharing. This was such an interesting look at how a first line changed. I appreciate the peek at your process.

  118. I love that you take us through your process from beginning to perfect! I thought I’d already posted here, but guess not. Thank you for sharing.

  119. Thank you for the play by play of coming up with that opening line. It is so helpful to actually see the thought process

  120. It was so helpful to see inside another writer’s revision process. Thank you so much for your helpful post!

  121. This book looks beautiful, Sophia! Love seeing the evolution of your first line. It really resonates as I’ve been working on one particular ms for a while now and haven’t managed to nail the opening yet. I’ll know when I get it right! Thanks for sharing your thought process!

  122. Well, you’ve hooked me! I’m ordering this PB. Sounds fantastic! Thanks for letting us into your process and your thoughts behind it. You talk about revising until you can get the story just where you want it to be, but you also mention a geode, full of surprises (I love that metaphor!)… so it seems to me that you’re really letting the story lead the way to where it wants to be. For me, a large part of my revision process is letting go–not just of words and phrases in each draft, but of what I thought the story needed vs. what the story wants. The way you described your process, it seems like a dance between what you want and what the story needs– I love that too. Thank you!

  123. Wow! This is a helpful post. Thanks for the real-life examples. It’s neat to see how even a well-respected author like you has to start somewhere.

  124. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on revising that important first line. Great post . . . helpful and insightful!!

    1. Congratulations on your new book. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing your journey in finding the perfect opening line. I agree, the opening line is crucial to engage the reader.

  125. Sophia, congrats on the book! I really appreciated the way you described writing in terms of where the “camera” is located–that is how I often imagine it. I look forward to reading your masterpiece!

  126. Thank you so much for sharing the revision process as you worked toward bringing your story to where it needed to be. Patience with ourselves and the words is such a big part of it, isn’t it? Congratulations on creating a beautiful book!

  127. Thanks so much for sharing your process and journey with your debut book, Sophia, and congrats! Can’t wait to read your story!

  128. Revision is such a difficult process. I always find it helpful to see how other authors tackle it. Thank you for sharing so generously with us, Sophia! Can’t wait to read your beautiful book!

  129. Thank you for sharing this helpful post on the revision process Sophia. Congratulations on your beautiful book!

  130. This was perfect for me today! I struggle with so many things and opening lines are the trickiest….and tension…and the middle! That you for writing this.

    1. Looks like I also struggle with proofreading. Thank you for writing this-rather than that you for writing this.

  131. Thank you for walking us step by step through your process. It is so helpful to see how this first line came together.

  132. I appreciate you letting us see the process of how your first line came about. It’s so helpful, and brings home how important each word is.

  133. Sophia, I truly appreciate this intimate look at your first-line experience. Thank you for taking us there. Very helpful!

  134. Sophia, I completely agree with you– every word counts!

    Thank you for this interesting dive into the evolution of your final first line. Best of luck to you!

  135. It’s amazing how a story evolves and how you see your words differently every time you read them, isn’t it?

  136. Opening lines and ending of a story always give me trouble so I really enjoyed reading your logic and journey for your opening line. Thanks for sharing.

  137. Oh, how writing is a labor of love! Thanks for showing us the transformation of your opening line. 🙂

  138. Sophia, your post really helped me scrutinize the opening line of a MS that I’ve been working on for over a year. When I dive back into revisions this month, I’m going to ask myself the same questions that you mentioned!

  139. Thank you for sharing! I loved following the progression through your examples! Looking forward to reading your book!

  140. Sophia, great insight into opening lines, and I love the one you landed on.
    Thanks for the inspiration about first drafts!

  141. Thank you, Sophia, for this concrete look at your process for creating the perfect first line. You know it’s right when it sets the tone for the entire book, and conveys hints of the setting and character. A lot of information packed into one sentence!

  142. Hi Sophia. You nailed it when you said that getting the first line down is hard (Rough paraphrasing there! 🙂
    I often have a story idea rattling around in my head, and it takes me a while (sometimes weeks) to pluck up the courage to sit down and just write. Thanks for reminding us that no one has to see our first several drafts. There is really nothing to be afraid of, is there?
    Congrats on your book and thanks for your post! – Michele

  143. Thanks for sharing your journey. It is fascinating to see how your first line developed into something that really draws me into the story. You’ve provided a great process for thinking through my own opening lines. Thanks!

  144. Congratulations on your beautiful book Sophia! Thanks for sharing some of your process with the first line hook. The behind the scenes revision info was very helpful.

  145. Thank you for sharing, Sophia. Your post has been so helpful. Congratulations on your debut book, which I’m looking forward to reading. I’m another nutty tree lover!

  146. So interesting to see the development of a single line through the revision process! Thanks for sharing.
    Liz

  147. Thank you for your transparency and showing us the evolution of your writing. It is an encouragement as writing includes so much time and thought!

  148. Congratulations Sophia! Your book looks so lovely and I can’t wait to read it (I love anything involving trees!). Thank you for this insightful post on being persistent and uncovering that sparkling opening!

  149. Thank you, Sophia, for sharing your revision process – super helpful – and for the generous giveaway!

  150. Thank you for your post. I really appreciate your comment about allowing ourselves to take time to write and rewrite to find our story’s true potential. Love that! Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Rita. Writing is definitely not something that can be fast-tracked (if only!). I usually consider the first few drafts a practice round before the real story begins to come out.

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