I've been in Homer these past few days, filling my brain with ideas at the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference. Right now, my brain feels like a blender filled with a barrage of ideas on a dozen topics, names of new friends, new resources, new first words. As I prepare to head to the airport, I wonder: how do I begin to sift through the bits inside the blender?
First, by taking the idea that I came here with a goal: to find out if someone was interested in publishing my fiction. A premature notion, it turns out. But I'd submitted the first page of the novel to a panel of two editors and an agent. The anonymous submissions of a half-dozen writers were discussed publicly with the level of honesty authors need to, but don't always want to, hear.
Even before they said it, I knew my first page wasn't destined for greatness. It didn't lead the reader directly into the story. Instead, it set up some mundane action and thought that only meant something to me. I listened to the critiques of all the pieces. Several of us had this problem of taking too long to pull the reader into the story.
Afterward, I scrolled through the document on my laptop, looking for the beginning: page six? Really? I talked with a few people I met at the conference, including one of the editors. I told one new acquaintance I'd take his idea under consideration. Later in the evening, as I sat at a public reading, glass of wine in front of me, I pulled out my notebook and began jotting down a few words for the new first page. After the reading and a bonfire, I headed to my friends' house. It was midnight. I opened the laptop and began to write.
What emerged was a new page one. A new beginning for the story. A new voice. A voice with urgency. I completed a page, then closed down the laptop.