The Opening Paragraph That Slayed Me

On Monday, I decided to catch up on some reading that I had neglected while writing a story that I eventually scrapped because I wasn’t satisfied nor pleased by my writing. I was forcing the dialogue to chase some silly word count in a contest that was not geared toward great writing or story development. If you need to be prompted to write or if you’re a fan of gimmicks then this endeavor might prove to be valuable. I’m a firm believer in writing that grows organically, without set parameters, prose that is worthy of your story and your own set of standards. We all have our own ideas about writing, what motivates us, what goals we have, what direction best fits our style, and that’s the way it should be. I fault no one for giving National Novel Writing Month a shot, to each their own. Ultimately though, for me personally, it wasn’t a good fit. Attempting to write a novel in 30 days is more about ego and word counts, the story seems secondary to most authors. While there are benefits to this contest, learning to write everyday, developing a routine and extending dialogue and scenes, in the end, the arbitrary finish line tends to produce awful and unimaginative writing. Let’s be honest here, if you have dreams of writing a novel, you don’t need the month of November to start, just begin when you’re ready because any decent writer isn’t going to write a cohesive novel in a month, not by a long shot. But what it really boiled down to me was a quote that kept popping up in my mind throughout the last week “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” I was just pushing words, my vein remained intact, Red Smith was right.

Back to my original intent of this post. On Monday, I clicked on a link to an article in National Geographic, something about a man spending seven years walking through Africa and other countries, it intrigued be because I grow weary from a simple walk to kitchen so his story seemed almost bizarre to me. I pulled the article up on my tablet and read the opening short paragraph and read it again, then I read it another 5 times. I started reading the story and stopped after a couple of minutes and read that opening paragraph once again. I couldn’t stop reading it, maybe that’s weird or something but I love words and beautiful sentences and whatnot and well, this guy wrote possibly the best opening paragraph I’ve ever read in a nonfiction piece. The kind of opening that made me question my own writing in the story I mentioned above. I wrote 33,000 words in that story but this authors small paragraph was so much more potent and well-crafted than anything I had written that I knew I had made the right decision to put it on ice. I’ll let you judge for yourself whether you feel the way I do about his opening paragraph but make no mistake, I think it’s brilliant and flawless. Enough with the suspense, I’ll just say you’re welcome in anticipation of your gratitude.

“Walking is falling forward.

Each step we take is an arrested plunge, a collapse averted, a disaster braked. In this way, to walk becomes an act of faith. We perform it daily: a two-beat miracle—an iambic teetering, a holding on and letting go. For the next seven years I will plummet across the world.”

Here’s the link to the entire story (fascinating) if you’re interested.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s