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The other book launch: Editor's Notes #370
July 27, 2022

The entire course of a story or novel, like an avalanche, is largely defined within its first seconds.
To craft a compelling story, you must first launch it in the right direction.

—Jacob M. Appel

In this issue:

1. The other book launch
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.The other book launch
We tend to think of a book launch as the events a writer or publisher uses to start selling a finished book. This isn’t about that kind of book launch. This is about the launch Jacob Appel is talking about in the opening quote. It’s the first words the reader encounters on the first page, the launch that sets the direction of the contents of the book with enough propulsion to overcome reader inertia.

The opening is arguably the most important part of a book. If the reader feels no interest, the book is more likely to be put aside, possibly forever. But when the opening promises the reader that what follows is well worth the time to spend with the book, the reader feels launched on an adventure. And like a ship’s launch or a rocket launch, a book’s opening needs an initial push.

There are many lists of what to include in a book opening, but instead of listing what others have said should be included, I am giving you eleven opening sentences from Alice Munro who won the Nobel Prize for literature as a short story writer. These are the first sentences from The Progress of Love. Read them thoughtfully. Think about why these propel you forward (or not, if they don’t).
  • I got a call at work, and it was my father.
  • Stella’s father built the place as a summer house, on the clay bluffs overlooking Lake Huron.
  • "Is that your brother out there?" Davidson said. "What’s he up to?"
  • My father came across the field carrying the body of the boy who had been drowned
  • The two people who died were in their early sixties.
  • Sam got a surprise, walking into Callie’s variety and confectionery store.
  • In high school, I had a tender, loyal, boring friendship with a girl named MaryBeth Crocker.
  • Mary Jo can hear what Dr. Streeter would have to say.
  • Violet’s mother—Aunt Ivie—had three little boys, three baby boys, and she lost them.
  • Trudy threw a jug across the room.
  • "I don’t know what color," says Denise, answering a question of Magda’s.

Hold your current book opening beside these. Can you make any improvements?

2.Tickled my funny bone
We started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

3. Interesting Web site
Alice Munro’s sentences are for fiction. The link below also talks about openings for nonfiction.

4. Writing prompt
Choose one of the opening sentences in the article I wrote or the one in Interesting Web site, and write your own piece based on that. I would love to see what you come up with.

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