Friday, December 20, 2013

The Best of the Archives- Where Do I Begin-Deciding Where to Start Your Story

This blog post first appeared December 3, 2012 and is one of our most popular teaching posts.

I've just finished judging the First Impression contest for ACFW, which is such a great idea for a contest.

It made me start thinking about starting a story and I’m going to try and talk with you about where, when and how.

I’m open to other opinions here because it’s tricky, so chime in.
I always say explode your story. Explode that book onto the page. But it’s not enough to explode for the sake of exploding. You've got to explode your story.

The opening of a book needs to do five things.

1) Explode

2) Story 

3) Anchor

4) Moment of Change

5) Cute Meet

1) EXPLODE- I mean something big, emotionally or physically, right off the bat.
When you’re revising your book take a few moments and VISUALIZE the editor. Visualize her sitting at her desk with STACKS of manila envelopes to her left and right. You know she is exhausted, overwhelmed, she’s got a lot of other jobs besides acquiring and she’s set 2-4 pm aside daily to read submissions from unpublished authors.

She rips open envelop after envelop and here’s the thing…she WANTS to buy your story. She wants something to grab her and excite her. She is hoping and praying she’ll find a new author. SHE NEEDS YOU.

Now, I don’t know this, but I suspect you've got about two minutes. You have got to grab her just like you're going to have to grab a reader when your book is published. You've got to write something exciting and you've got about half a page to do it.

Now look at your opening. Is it there? Is what she needs going to leap right off the page at her? Your story needs to explode.

HOWEVER it needs to not just explode for the sake of an explosion. There needs to be a point. It’s your STORY that’s exploding not just some random action scene to hook an editor.

2) STORYStory! Story! Story! I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!! YOU'VE GOT TO TELL ME YOUR STORY. The story need to be there, front and center. I don’t think I can stress this enough. You’ve got to tell me the story. Yes, explode the book, but WHAT STORY ARE YOU GOING TO TELL? The trickiness of starting a book becomes MUCH SIMPLER if you just tell me your story from word one!

One of my recurring comments in judging is, “I still have no idea the story you’re going to tell me. I can’t tell by reading if this is a romance, who the hero and heroine are going to be, I don’t know where I am, when I am, who these people are and what story you’re going to tell. This is a sure fired way to get your submission rejected. START THE STORY. It needs to be in there. If it’s NOT in there, then you need to rework it until it is. I should NOT have to go to the blurb to know your story. No, not even in a short submission like five pages. TELL ME YOUR STORY! (have I stressed that enough, yet?)

3) ANCHORWHERE am I, WHEN am I, WHO are these people. When someone picks up a Mary Connealy book hopefully from my past work, the cover, and the back story blurb, a reader flips open the page knowing what to expect. It’s gonna be a historical romance set in the America West, post-Civil War. But even with the reader knowing that, I still need to anchor them firmly in a time and place for them to join me on this journey. A tag after the title isn't enough. AND—I CAN’T LET IT STOP MY STORY FROM EXPLODING!

Yes, you can put a date under the title

Over the Edge
Rawhide, Colorado
October 30, 1866
Chapter One

(sometimes I include setting here, Rawhide, Colorado, but I didn't in Over the Edge)

But no place and date can do the job of drawing in a reader. That isn't enough to truly anchor your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to create. You don’t have to be heavy handed about this. If Callie Kincaid is in a stagecoach hold up, I’m done. I've anchored them. A stagecoach sets you in time and place.

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I haven’t said:

Callie Kincaid was riding through the Colorado Rockies in 1866.
Instead page one, sentence one of Over the Edge:

A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach, threading a needle to miss all four passengers.

It’s a hold-up!” Callie Kincaid grabbed her rifle. “Get down!”

Almost every reader is immediately going to start thinking about a stagecoach hold-up they’ve seen in a movie. And I’m done. It’s cowboys. It’s the American west. Horses, rifles, Stetsons. It’s all done with one sentence. I work Colorado in pretty soon, but honestly there’s little time with the bullets flying. And at this point Colorado isn’t important because the reader knows exactly where they are in a general sense. The Wild West.

4) Moment of Change— I've heard it said to start your story at the moment of change. So, okay, picture yourself right now. What are you doing? Duh, you’re reading Seekerville. Then, maybe you've got screaming kids tugging on your knees, or it’s time to get dinner or you've got to head out to work, or you’re going to write for an hour. I’m sorry to tell you this, but YOUR LIFE ISN'T A STORY. The stuff you did yesterday and today and tomorrow is all good, it’s life and it’s a good life. But it’s not a STORY. (and be thankful for that, most stories are full of trouble--in fact PRAY that your life never becomes a story!). A story usually begins when that everyday life is changed.

The phone rings.

A knock on the door.

An outlaw shoots you out of the saddle.

A man plunges over a creek bank riding his horse at full speed and a woman races to save his life.

The train pulls up and a tall, dark and handsome stranger steps off and his fiery hazel eyes lock on yours.

Now THAT’S a story. Pick that moment of change. How does your heroine’s life suddenly change?

In Too Deep, the hero and heroine already know each other. But there’s that awful, beautiful cavern and it nearly steals the heroine’s baby from her forever. Ethan saves the baby and Audra knows she’s got to get away from that cavern. It’s too dangerous for a toddler. Ethan and Audra are married by the first sentence of Chapter Two. There’s your moment of change.

In Too Deep

Chapter One

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"Ethan! Where's Maggie?"  
Ethan's head snapped up at Audra's sharp tone. "What?"
Audra, rounding a boulder, just coming into view, dropped an armload of kindling. With the baby, Lily clutched to her chest, she charged forward calling, "Maggie!"
"I thought she stayed with you?" Ethan rose from where he crouched by the morning fire and turned in a circle, searching for the toddler. 

Mary again—the kindling, the morning fire, these cues set this book in the past. I suppose it could be a camping trip, but hopefully it’s enough. The explosion is a missing toddler and the accompanying panic and desperate search. But the story is there, too. A mother with children, a heroic cowboy there to help. And the moment of change, once we’re done exploding of course, is that Audra needs to get away which propels the marriage and the change that begins our story.

5) Cute Meet—Begin your story with the moment the hero/heroine have their cute meet.

Have you ever heard that in a romance the hero and heroine need to meet by page three? This is a hard and fast rule in shorter romances. Especially unshakable for a new author trying to get that first contract. You can try and push the envelop later, when you’re established, but for now, no matter the length, if you’re trying to get published, a great way to start your story is for the hero and heroine to meet. BAM! Page one. Sentence one. No back story. No prologue. Just have them meet.

In Out of Control, Rafe and Julia meet when Rafe hears a scream for help. This--the moment they meet--is such an obvious place to start a romance novel that if you DON’T pick it, you’d better have a really good reason. This is the moment of change, this can explode, this can anchor you in time and place. THIS IS YOUR STORY!

Out of Control

Chapter One

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Last time. This is it. Never again.

Rafe Kincaid pulled his chestnut thoroughbred to a halt in full darkness, still a distance away from the entrance of the cavern. (Mary--Rafe is riding a horse, BAM cowboy, American west, historical, his name...the book is anchored)

He rubbed the ugly, jagged scar that ran from the corner of his eye to his hairline just above his ear. He was glad he had it. A lifelong reminder of that awful day eleven years ago and this treacherous cavern. He'd grown up fast. 

A breeze came down across the mountains and cooled the air and made the tree branches bob and dance. Like most summer nights in the Colorado Rockies, a fire would feel good. (Mary--more anchors, Colorado Rockies)

Rafe smelled grass. Over the crest of this rugged, heavily-wooded mountain, his cattle dozed in the moonlight, spread out over a lush meadow. 

But tonight he wasn’t looking for cattle. Instead he was looking to make his peace. 

Right in front of him stood a cave entrance, nothing but a hole in the ground. It looked like a mouth gaped open with the cornered turned down in a scowl. Mouth was a good word for it because this place almost swallowed his family whole. 

Then he saw the rope.

A rope coiled beside the entrance to the cave. (Mary--the explosion, an intruder, in Rafe's cave)
Narrowing his eyes, he swung down and hitched his chestnut to a scrub pine. It’d been over a decade since Rafe had fought his battle with that cavern. And he’d faced that cave many times since because he refused to let it defeat him. But he’d never seen evidence anyone else had been in it. Not since Seth had run off.

He took two more steps and heard Seth scream. (Mary--more of the explosion, screaming is ALWAYS GOOD! )

Cold control sleeted in his veins as he drew his gun, leveled it. The metallic crack as he cocked it

There was nothing to aim at. 

Seth didn't scream. Seth wasn't down there.

Another scream split the air. (Mary--the cute meet and the moment of change, though screaming and cute don't seem to go together, nothing cute in the real world about screaming usually. But in a novel they fit, and that screamer is Julia, of course. The change is, love comes into Rafe's overly controlled life in the form of a feisty damsel in distress who needs to be rescued in many ways, which will keep Rafe busy for 80,000 words)

The thing is, I’m not giving you a list of five possible ways to start your story. Your story needs to start with ALL OF THEM.

  • Explode
  • Story 
  • Anchor
  • Moment of Change
  • Cute Meet

If you do this, when that overworked, hopeful but pessimistic editor pulls your submission out of it’s envelop, you've got a lot better chance of her reading past page one. You might even end up getting THE CALL!!!

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Candlelight Christmas

You might want to check out my ebook Christmas novella, which has been out for a while, containing two books, one by me, one by Linda Goodnight.

If you have read this (and liked it) I would really appreciate it if you'd go LIKE it on Amazon and leave a review.

Two Inspirational Christmas Stories ...

1. The Outlaw’s Gift by Linda Goodnight

1880s Oklahoma Territory

When drifter Seth Blackstone shows up at Raven Patterson’s homestead, Raven thinks this may be the solution to all her problems. But Seth’s mysterious past is about to catch up with him and could mean disaster for them both.

2. The Christmas Candle by Mary Connealy

Arkansas Ozarks 1883

Gabe Wagner, has left his hectic city life and moved onto Rose Palmer’s mountain. His plans to build a house will tear the heart out of her Ozark Mountain home. Rose learns that what she calls peace and quiet has evolved into isolation and loneliness. As Christmas approaches and she searches for the perfect way to honor the Savior’s birth, she realizes she wants to let Gabe into her life. But to do it, she may have to face a larger world that frightens her while she gives up the safe life she has always known.

Can the search for the perfect Christmas candle and the broken hearts of two little boys bring a solitary woman and a grieving man together? 

Merry Christmas from Seekerville. Comment today for a chance to win
 an ecopy of any one of Mary Connealy's Christmas books.
Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Helen Gray said...

This advice was good then, it's still good now. Thanks for the refresher.

Coffee's brewing.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks Helen!

Ever faithful!!

This is a real nuts and bolts post. I love it!

Marianne Barkman said...

I love it when I can tell who the author of a novel is just by reading the first page. Yeah, Mary. Romantic comedy! Thanks for the coffee, Helen. Thanks for the chance to win Christmas stories! Thanks for encouraging writers, so I can read!

Mary Curry said...

Hard to believe it's been over a year since I read this. Still remember it oh so clearly.

Thanks, Mary.

Melissa Jagears said...

Had to go tighten page one of new novel so that the beginning of the explosion landed on page one turn instead of middle of page 2. :) Cute meet is on top of page 3 Booyah.

Abbi Hart said...

As an avid reader I totally agree with all this! Nothing is better than starting a book that has all these things! Often the first page of a book will be the deciding factor on whether or not a new reader will try your book! Several times I've been in a book store debating whether or not to get a book and if that first page doesn't wow me chances are I won't be going home with it! Great advice!
I've read The Christmas Candle and Cowboy Christmas but I would love to win A Home for Christmas since it's the last book I need to own all of your books!

Cindy W. said...

Great advice Mary. This is one for my keeper book.

As a reader, when I pick up a book by an author I haven't read before I often read the first page to see if it is going to pull me into the story right away. Guess I've been looking for that explosion and didn't know it.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I always want to throw stones at my openings when I read this....

I love the explosiveness of a Connealy opening, I love the wrench of emotion, the adrenaline surge, the anticipation....

She does it so darn well that I can't help but read the books!!!!

And then she makes me laugh, so I love that I'm reading the books!


But notice that she left a loop open for those of us whose characters don't have a firearm handy. We can EXPLODE!!!!! but in different ways.

A single mother, tackling a new normal...

A father, bereft of a child, his fault entirely...

A daughter, longing to make amends, unsure how to face the past to make a future...

So if your work isn't savvy to the Wild West, it can still vibrate with emotion... perhaps in a SLIGHTLY MORE SUBTLE WAY...


In the meantime I'll read Mary's and I brought holiday mugs for the coffee!!!!! And flavored creamer and pastries from the Italian bakery.

It's the Friday before Christmas. Time to PARTY!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary Curry Connealy looked SO YOUNG last year, didn't she?????

Jackie said...

Thanks for these great tips on beginnings. I can't wait to get my comment back.

(TINA, I hope you noticed I entered another contest. Actually thanks to you I entered more this year that the last three years combined.)

Thanks to all of you for always helping us to write better!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Always good to revisit a great post. Thanks MARY.

Happy holidays to all of you. Only a few days left to get that shopping done. I got my last cards out yesterday. :)

Pepper said...

Great post, Mare.
I LOVE writing the first chapter - and you do it so well. Of course, it does help that most of the time someone is surviving something or other in the first chapter of your books, but you do 'set the stage' of story well.

Kav said...

Love this, Mary. I tend to get stymied at the anchoring point. That's where I mess it up with backstory which ends up miring the story instead of anchoring it. I can see why this is one of the most popular teaching posts -- it's clear, to the point and one might say explodes off the computer screen. :-) And I love the examples with Mary's notes beside them.

Don't enter me in the draw because I have all your Christmas books. Love 'em too.

Julie Lessman said...

MARY!!! I can see why this is one of the Seeker's most popular posts -- it's BRILLIANT, my friend, just like you!!

I agree with Cindy -- this is a keeper, and with Ruthy, too -- not everybody can use bullets to explode an opening, but there are plenty of other ways, thank God!! I mean let's face -- Connealy has the corner on THAT market!! ;)


Tina Radcliffe said...

Jackie, you diva, you!! Congratulations!!

DebH said...

Love this post. In fact, I was reading my copy of this about two nights ago.

Brilliance abounds at Seekerville.

(and I do so love Mary's explosive stories too. well, i adore all Seeker ladies books, but that's beside the point - today is about Mary)

Mary Hicks said...

Thanks for this thought stirring post, MaryC!! :-)

I need to get another cup of coffee and settle in for a long 'digging in' session with this post! :-)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Mary, I need to read this again in the next week or so when I start editing my book that I only have 3 1/2 weeks to work on. :P I like the way you say "Explode the story." Not just explode, but, explode the story. That's a good way to think about it.

Mary Connealy said...


I was surprised to find this here this morning.

Tina told me she was going to put it up, but she told me it was going to be on FRIDAY.

Uh...hmmmm....mind shifts somewhat into gear....sigh

it is Friday.

Mary Connealy said...

You know this is all really true and.............I need to remember it too.

I can get lazy. I can meander.

It's especially tempting to fail in all these elements when the cover and your brand are doing the work for you.

And that's wrong.

Yes there's a cowboy on the cover so I don't have to bother to set the story in time and place do I? The cover does that for me.

And I've got a brand. And a past history. I always write cowboys. Whoever's reading this KNOWS cowboys. So I can assume you know.


It's not just about letting the reader know what's going on, it's about bringing the reader along for the ride, bringing the reader INTO the story, INTO the world. It's the difference between the reader standing on the ground watching the roller coaster zip along and the reader hopping on a car and zipping along on the ride themselves.

And they need these elements each and every time to be drawn in, to be part of that ride.

I really believe that.

Mary Connealy said...

And you know who made me believe this.

These are my three greatest influences as far as who I aspire to write like and who I think does this 'roller coaster ride' experience the very best.

I should make this it's own blog post someday.

Walter Farley
Clive Cussler
Mary Higgins Clark

For some reason those three, for me, always just put me right in the middle of the action.
And as a child, reading Walter Farley's Black Stallion books when I was really too young to have much of an understanding of an author's part in a book. I just knew there were books and was glad of it.
I rememeber reading a Black Stallion Book and those horse races....I was just THERE. I felt the other horses bumping up against me. I tasted the choking dirt kicking up. I heard the thundering hooves. I saw those riding crops swinging, whacking those huge, pulsing hindquarters of those powerful animals.
He's the first author I ever wondered, "How did he do that? How did he put me in the middle of that horse race?"

Mary Connealy said...

And as for Mary Higgins Clark well, there is just no way to describe the roller coaster ride of her books.

Where are the Children
The Cradle Will Fall
A Cry in the Night

Oh my gosh, those early classic thrillers. Nothing like them ever. She just drags you through those books like she clamps her hand on the front of your shirt and hauls you onto that roller coaster car and won't let go.

I don't even kid myself I come close to that but oh, to ever dream of touching that skill.

Mary Connealy said...

And Clive Cussler.

He is so much a part of Petticoat Ranch and his writing sneaks into a lot of my books but never in the grand 'Save the World' way he does it.

What movie was I watching the other night....something classic. My Cowboy had it on and I thought, "Hey, fun. Oh, Independence Day, when aliens attacked Earth and Bill Pullman is president and Will Smith is the Air Force pilot and Jeff Goldblume is the science geek genius who figures out how to upload a virus to the mother ship.

Such a fun movie.

But this movie used techniques like Cussler. It had all these moving parts that seems completely separate.

Will Smith in LA saying goodbye to his girlfriend to report back to base.

Jeff Goldblume in New York City noticing some odd pulse.

The aliens appearing over all the cities and the president in Washington DC trying to decide whether people should leave the cities or not.

The first lady in LA at a speech.

More than that, too.
And all these elemements start to collide, drawn together, to Area 51 as the aliens force them to join up to fight.

That's pure Clive Cussler, all these moving parts that seem random and are, of themselves great stories, but seem to have little to do with each other.

And you jump from story to story, hating to leave the old one, anxious though to go back and see what was happing with the other one. It's a great way to write.
Mary Higgins Clark does this too and that's the thing that makes her and Cussler alike, I think.

But that's hard to do with a romance novel because you need to get the hero and heroine together and keep them together.

Nissa Annakindt said...

Very helpful post. I think it's better in the first draft stage to not get attached to your story beginning, to just accept that your polished-draft story beginning will probably be something quite different.

Joanne Hill said...

Brilliant advice. I'm about to start a new book, too.... explode!!!! Love it.

Myra Johnson said...

Great post AGAIN, Mary!

I used to read every Mary Higgins Clark book that ever came out. Why haven't I read any in a while?

Mary Connealy said...

By the way, I stand by this post even if you're writing a gentle women's fiction story.

Or a lovely Amish romance.

It still all applies.

Mary Connealy said...

I just judged another unpubbed contest and I am telling you there were MULTIPLE entries that I had NO IDEA WHAT THE STORY WAS, AND SOME WERE...well how long were they, surely not 25 pages.

One, I didn't know who the hero was.

I thought I did then I read the synopsis and I was WRONG.

One, I thought was historical and it turned out the whole opening was like...I can't remember, a dream or a memory or a letter or something. And it wasn't badly done but I had NO IDEA OF THE STORY!
Maybe that could work but I was majorly confused and I think that's usually bad.


Mary Connealy said...

I need to settle down and respond to comments.

I've been sleeping like a vampire for some reason. Late late nights. Then sleeping too late in the morning.

I'm doomed.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Nissa!

Pull up a chair and have a cuppa.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hey, Joanne, it really does make sense, doesn't it?

How's the weather there down under??

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wait. You aren't down under. You're down over. LOL. New Zealand!!

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Mary! Wonderful advice! Explode the story you're telling at the moment of change for the hero and heroine, grounding the reader in time and place. Wow! The secret of opening stories that editors want to buy!

I love a sense of mystery in the opening when the author gives me a peek at back story, but dislike being confused. The difference between teasing the reader and leaving her scratching her head.


Mary Connealy said...

Mary Curry, you remember this? You know it's weird, when I read it I kept thinking, 'Wow, this makes pretty good sense, I wrote this?'

Every time I write a blog post I hope I'm not leading you all dangerously astray.

Mary Connealy said...

Good for you, Melissa. I think it's really important to do all of this. We can make excuses, tell ourselves why we've got VERY GOOD REASONS WHY WE CAN'T DO ALL THIS RIGHT AWAY. But really it needs to go up front and it doesn't have to be heavy handed, you can do so much of this, the where, the who, with a couple of well chose, well placed words in the midst of the explosion, but you MUST DO IT.

Mary Connealy said...

See what Abbi Hart says, as a reader, when we are appealing to that editor we are also appealing to the reader and that is what an editor is really looking for. She wants to be hooked because she knows that's what will hook a reader.

Thanks for leaving a comment Abbi and thank you so much for reading my books. God bless you.

Mary Connealy said...

Cindy always remember an emotional explosion works too. We all know emotions can be riveting. Absolutely powerful.

So no excuses just because you don't have a book where you get to shoot someone.

(though honestly, why would you even want to write a book with no gunfire! C'mon, where's the fun in that?)

Mary Connealy said...

I think In Too Deep, Audra and Ethan's story has one of the most explosive beginnings I've ever written with that child lost in that cavern and not one second of gun fire in there,

The stakes are so so high. And crazy brother Seth has taken the little toddler into the cave and lost track of her (because he's CRAZY) and really, I just LOVE that opening. And Ethan is scared to death of that cavern, I mean seriously terrified phobic but he HAS to go in. He has NO Choice.
So his courage, ripped right out of the deepest part of his guts is to me one of the sheerest acts of bravery I've ever written.

And not one single explosion. Not one shot fired.

There is a cliff however.

No one falls over it of course, though the precious little girl comes VERY CLOSE!!!!!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

JACKE!!! Good for you! You are taking great steps to further your writing career. Very brave. That's what it takes to succeed!

Mary Connealy said...

It helps me to visualize that editor. I always feel like, in face to face pitch sessions or when they're opening your attached manuscripts or tearing open your mailed manila envelope (do any publishers even accept those anymore?)
an editor is ROOTING FOR YOU. She/he needs you. They always need new authors. They WANT to find someone good, someone new.

Give them every chance to love you.

Mary Connealy said...

Pepper, I remember starting Petticoat Ranch. I had been at it for a long time at that point and I just put so much thought into that opening. So many factors, so many threads. I knew what I needed to do and I wanted to badly to do it ALL.

I kept thinking REMEMBER WHAT YOU KNOW!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

HI KAV You have all those books. Well, thank you so much. God bless you for that.

Mary Connealy said...

Kav I think, when you talk about backstory, the real key here is just to keep is very minimal at the opening.

Just a word or two to set the reader in place.

Stagecoach is about all I need, right?

Rocky Mountains.

I don't have to go into detail, just tiny hints, tiny dashes of info that don't interrupt the flow of the explosion...because we wouldn't want to do that, now would we???

But it's got to be in there!!!

Mary Connealy said...

DebH, so when you (and others) talk about printing out these posts you means you REALLY print them on PAPER?

Wow, mind boggled

Mary Connealy said...

Mary Hicks, I don't think you need to dig in. You just need to obey me implicitly. Too much thinking at this point would be wrong.

Mary Connealy said...

Melanie...3 1/2 weeks? Good grief plenty of time. You can fit in a trip to Maui and a nice suntan, and maybe whip up a nice log cabin quilt.

Good luck

Mary Connealy said...

HI NISSA! You are so so right. All this work on the beginning, to make it explode, to get all the elements there, is part of the the revision process, to get it all there, all balanced.

I do, however, as part of my panster writing style, brainstorm the beginning of my books LOT. That's how I 'plot' by brainstorming the beginning. So the beginning is pretty well plotted in my head before I start typing.

Still, you need to get it down, get it on paper and then you can always come back and fix it. Great point.

Mary Connealy said...

HI know I mean the book right? Your comment sounded so fierce. You're not really wiring anything up, right????

(nervously gnawing fingernails)

Mary Connealy said...

Myra, Mary Higgins Clark started writing sort of strange, sweet cozy mysteries. Was she writing them with her daughter?

Carol Higgins Clark? Somethign like that.

My daughter, Wendy, who is an aspiring writer....except she needs to finish her master's degree first, that's taking all her writing time right now...said she's going to call herself Wendy Higgins Clark Connealy.
She thinks she'll get farther with that name than with mine. LOL Brat.

Mary Connealy said...


Explode the story you're telling at the moment of change for the hero and heroine, grounding the reader in time and place.

Wow, I could have saved you all a LOT of time this morning if I'd've just written that.


Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thanks for the repeat post. I remember it from last Dec. Can't be reminded too often about what should be on those first pages. I had to laugh when I read "just pray your life doesn't become a story." Story should have plenty of unanticipated change, twists and major conflict. The less I experience that in life the better. That's a major reason why I resist putting my characters through the fire. Must remember my story people won't grow and change without it. Just like in real life. Thanks again, Mary.

Tina Radcliffe said...

No, Mary Higgins Clark didn't write with her daughter. They had separate careers.

Thankfully. Carol had the Regan what's her name series.

Missy Tippens said...

Love this post! It's always such a good reminder. Especially when I'm doing revisions right now! :)

Great job, Mary. You definitely have great openings!

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Pat. I have a neighbor who is fond of saying, "Pray for a boring life."

That always strikes me as very wise.


Mary Connealy said...

TINA, did Carol H Clark write the older couple solving crimes then? Or did Mary Higgins Clark do that?

It broke my heart when she did that and...more importantly, I stopped reading her books. I've heard she's gone back to the thrillers but I never went back to reader her.

Lesson!!! To!!! Us!!! All!!! About branding.

I never went back to John Grisham after he quit with the Legal Thrillers either, and he did go back. But somehow I was out of the rhythm of picking up his new books by then. Not sure why.

It's scary because I really do understand an author wanting to write outside their brand. I get that impulse because I have it. I have other stories I want to tell and they are NOT all cowboys.

But boy, there's a real risk involved.

Mary Connealy said...

Thanks, Missy. You have great openings, too. And no explosions anywhere, so what do I know, huh?

Walt Mussell said...

I can see why this post is a keeper. (And speaking of keepers, I think I have all of these books.)

Natalie Monk said...

Such a great post!!! Thanks for letting us visit this again! Definitely bears repeating.

5 days til Christmas!!! Yay! Merry Christmas, everybody.

Mary Connealy said...

Ah, Walt, thank you. If you want to be in the drawing, you can give me someone else's email address that's attached to their Kindle or Nook and the ebook can go to them as a gift!

Terri said...

Great advice. I kept waiting for you to say leave a comment for a critique. Wishful thinking on my part. LOL

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary, Mary, Mary. The rules please.

No transferring prizes. Sorry dude.

Such a little rule breaker.

CatMom said...

Great refresher post, Mary - - thank you!!
WHERE has this week gone? And HOW can it be almost Christmas? (sorry, Mary---my thoughts here have nothing to do with your excellent post--or with writing--I'm just thinking out loud, LOL).
Anyway, this is a KEEPER post for sure (just as your books are on my Keeper Shelf!).
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Wow, Mary. You're making me feel so much better about the fact that I haven't even quite finished the rough draft and I have to turn it in in 3 1/2 weeks. So much better!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chill N said...

Not that I have to prove things to myself .... but I looked back in the archives just to prove to myself that I really did read this the first time a year ago.

That was a fast year!

Nancy C

Linda Marie Finn said...

Thank you Mary, I needed a prompt and love the ideas you shared. I would love to win and read one of your books.
Linda Marie Finn
Faithful Acres Books