“Crafting a Killer Beginning” Workshop

It was a dark and stormy night…

Wait, you mean that’s been used already?!


Just before meeting Ally Carter last week, I attended a writing workshop called “Crafting the Killer Beginning,” put on by The Writer’s Center.  First writing workshop attended at age 16: Check.

In the 85 degree, 95 % humidity, we listened and discussed and churned around in our brains the topic of what makes a good opening line.  (And listened to a girl in the back blow her nose a lot.  Sorry, guys.  I have Allergies.)

Our first exercise was to take 5-10 minutes to write a sentence.  The opening sentence.

I already knew what mine was for my story: “Fog rolled through the trees, making it hard for Star to see.”  I knew it wasn’t out-of-this-world good.  Which is why I wanted to go to this workshop.

We then talked about what three things an opening sentence (and a story as a whole) should have.

1) Tone

2) Plot

3) Character

These things should all be balanced.  At this point, I didn’t feel too bad.  (Except for having to blow my nose again.)  My opening sentence had all three!

Tone: foggy trees, forest, hard to see, mysterious, dark, damp.

Plot: Hard to see – Star NEEDS to see something, and the fog is giving her issues.

Character: (obviously) Star

The first sentence is a bit like a handshake.  It sets up the reader’s expectations.

We talked about this for a while.  What type of expectations are set up with this opening sentence?  Hmm.

Our next exercise was to look at some sample opening sentences in some different categories.

First, we had the Nail in the Coffin, where someone died.  Then we had The Corker, which toyed with your sense of reality.  This was followed by The Outsidewhich looked at scenery,and The Inside, which was an introduction to someone’s mind.  Next came The Cheeky (which played with words), The Spoken (dialogue), and The Hello (an introduction), and a few others.

*A note on The Outside: I raged about setting here.  But this workshop – especially looking at The Outside – re-emphasized my recent epitome: setting must do something.  It can’t simply exist.  So in The Outside, it either sets the tone or drives the plot.  Which, actually, is what it should always do.

At this point, we had to sneak out the back of the tent to go see Ally.  We missed the tail end of the workshop, but it was still incredibly awesome to be stuck in a tent with twenty-five other writers, talking about writing!  

Did I ever come up with a perfect first sentence?  Nope.

Did I love the workshop? Yes!

Maybe next time it won’t be so humid and I won’t run out of kleenex.

foggy trees


I’ve raved about Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series here.  They are some of my favorite books, and Ally is one of my favorite authors.

Yesterday, I got to meet her.

And get my picture with her.

It was the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  In a tent, in the 85-degree, 95% humidity.  Ally got up and wowed us all by talking about her books, her writing process, and her life in general.  We were transfixed.  When she was done, she opened it up to questions, and then professionally and enthusiastically answered each one.

Then my mom ran and bought me her newest book, All Fall Down.  (Book review coming soon!)


Look at how beautiful it is!




While she was signing it, I gathered the courage to say, “Hey, I really enjoy your website for writers.  It’s been very helpful to me.”  She replied, “Oh cool!  I haven’t updated that in a while.  Maybe I should look at it again.”


Me: Leaves book fair

Me: Goes home and starts reading All Fall Down

Three bonuses of the Gaithersburg Book Festival:

1) I met a friend from school, who was ALSO there to see Ally.  We didn’t plan on meeting up, it just happened that way.  I had no idea she like Ally’s books.  Kinda a God thing? Yeah.

IMAG0497_12) THERE WAS A NANOWRIMO TABLE!  WOOT WOOT!  I got a NaNoWriMo sticker and bookmark, and introduced said friend to the epicness that is NaNoWriMo.

3) I got to attend an awesome workshop on Crafting the Killer Beginning, that I think was put on by the NaNoWriMo peeps.  Not super sure about that.  It might have been The Writer’s Center.  Anywho, it was SUPER awesome, and there will be details about that coming soon.  Edit: details here.

For all of you that live within two hours of Gaithersburg, MD, YOU’D BETTER BE THERE NEXT YEAR!