I want to READ EPIC SHIT.
But scrolling through the opening lines in the WordPress Reader uncovers a shovelful of just… shit. Stale, run of the mill, everyday store-brand crap. The only thing epic about most of our beginnings (yes, mine, too) is how epically they fail.
A writing teacher once told me, “Always throw away your first paragraph.”
“Garbage!” she would say as she slashed through 200 words with her red pen. “Drivel!” Then she’d stab a bloody hole through my notebook halfway down the page and say, “Now THIS. This is a beginning!”
Frau Hagenschraut was a tyrant.
Imagine Hannibal Lecter’s mix of crazy and control, wearing Delores Umbridge’s wardrobe (but in a militant shade of green) and Margaret Atwood’s hair.
I loved every frightening minute of her.
The only thing sharper than her tongue was her intellect, and in spite of her flair for the dramatic, I knew I could trust her instincts. She was a superhero, battling mediocrity and misspellings, saving the world’s readers from boredom, banishing second rate first lines to the bottom of the slush pile cesspool.
Writing bad beginnings is like greeting a new lover with a good morning kiss before you’ve brushed your teeth. It stinks. Your readers— and your lover— deserve better. Brush off that top layer of gunk and show us your pearly writes.
Here are some common bad beginnings:
“Let’s get right into it.”
How about you actually do just get right into it?
“You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while…”
Actually, we didn’t notice. We were busy living our own lives, of which you are not the center.
With the possible exception of your mother and your stalker, no one is waiting with bated breath for your latest holy utterances.
“Most of you probably won’t understand this, but…”
Don’t underestimate our powers of comprehension. It’s just offensive. You may be smarter than your readers, but thinking you are pretty much guarantees you are not. Go ahead and try to talk over our heads. We can handle it. Elevate us without condescension.
“I’ve been so busy lately.”
We don’t care. We’re ALL busy. But if your life’s really been that crazy, some part of it’s bound to make a great story. Forego the excuses and just tell us that part.
“It’s that time again! My daily/weekly roundup of (insert redundant blog post title here).”
Yes, we saw the (insert redundant blog post title here). Please don’t repeat it. Please. Don’t. Repea—
“I wrote this yesterday but accidentally only saved it as a draft.”
“This is something I wrote for XYZ publication…”
Bibliographies go at the end, people.
“I found this photo/poem/infographic/cat meme and just had to share it with you all on the blog.”
We see it. We see that you thought it worth sharing since you’ve shared it. You don’t have to tell us you’re sharing it. Again: credit your source at the end.
“We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers.”
No shit, Sherlock. Even the good people at The Daily Post are not immune. I love the Weekly Writing Challenges, but can’t we all be storytellers in the beginning, too?
(I do think that paragraph belongs in the WWC posts, but it kills me when that’s the only bit I get in an email, forcing me to click through. Put it after the good stuff!)
“I couldn’t think of anything to write about today—”
Stop right there. You are not obligated to write. Don’t waste your time or your readers’.
“I know there are so many articles about ABC already, but…”
If your two cents worth is worthwhile, we’d like to hear it first. Your buts? Not so much.
You’re not stocking shelves at the local grocery. Put the freshest stuff out front.
Come on, friends. Let’s stop watering down our intros with lame excuses and boring mundanities. Throw away your first paragraph. Make Frau Hagenschraut proud.
And for the love of holy writ, brush your teeth before you kiss us good night.