First Impressions…. first lines…

During NaNoWriMo this year I encountered a new species, women who wrote romances, members of the Romance Writers of America or RWA. I had never read a romance novel, I didn’t believe much in romance. I think I saw it as a state happy women with happy lives lived in happily. It had nothing to do with me, that was for sure!

I am a published poet. And I can just see the sea of eyes rolling when I say this. I still love poetry, to bleed on paper is a great purging. I used to study under Robert Bausch, taking his Creative Writing class for several years. Every time someone got published, the celebration included the lucky s.o.b. buying a round of drinks at the local pub. If you published a short story, the payment often was enough to cover the tab with some left over. If you got a poem published, you were paid in copies and if you were smart, you’d keep your mouth shut but try to quiet an author when they get that acceptance letter!

Poets write in private, sometimes read in public and that is something they should do but the largest chunk of their lives is private. Thick envelopes go out in the mail and thick envelopes returned in the self addresses stamped envelopes you send with your poems. A thin envelope often contains an acceptance letter or a rejection and knowledge the poems were tossed out. It’s a slow painful process and no one really gives a damn when you get lucky.

Stories, prose –short and long, novels are the real thing. But, if you are a poet, the world of writing can be lonely and prose seems to involve more open doors. The RWA was seductive, it hinted at friends and knowledge, tips and secrets… On further investigation, I was stunned by the community. It consisted of the range of very good writers to very bad writers and they all seemed supportive and nurturing. They also treated their writing like a career and this resonated with me. I wanted in. But what the hell was a romance novel? I saw HEA littering every blog and web site. I first imagined it meant Heaving, Erotic Action, which only shows how little I knew of romance in life or literature.

HEA meant Happily Ever After endings, the one set in granite rule of the genre. My cynical mind and snarky heart rode straight to Disney and I shook my head. Of course, I was wrong. As romance author Angela Quarles recently asked: Why is Romance judged by the worst in its genre and not its best? A very good article. I was judging romance based on the derogatory comments of others. When living in the city, my sophisticated European friends would often scoff at a movie or book with a happy soppy ending. I find myself now stepping back and wondering if this is fair?

So, I eagerly went to my first chapter meeting of the RWA, the Carolina Romance Writers. I heard cold reads and criticism by a real-live agent. I heard a wonderful presentation by Jenna Patrick on her Cutting the Crap method of editing, which I am finding useful and brilliant! My big take away was the power of the First Line… I was a bit surprised that the agent needed to know more than many are willing to give on the first page. While she understood the slow reveal, she didn’t seem to want to see it. Later, I corrected this to mean she needed to see some strong stuff to keep from wondering about the missing bits.

So, last night I pondered the First Line. I did some googling and found a lot of interesting stuff, here are my top five finds:

Snoopy and his eternal first line....

Snoopy and his eternal first line….

  • American Book Review: 100 Best First Lines
    read them here…
  • The Guardian lists 10 best first lines in fiction and how they influenced later writers
    read them here…
  • Here is a list of ‘catchy’ opening lines, with user ranking:
    read them here…
  • Here’s a list that only leaves me wondering, wtf? The top 15 Bad Romance Novel Opening Lines:
    read them here…
  • How about the Examiner’s top ten best lines from today’s romance novels?
    read them here…

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angela Quarles
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 08:36:04

    Great post, glad you found mine! I’ve often heard non-romance writers join RWA because of the quality of the craft classes and the support. Heck, one of my conference buddies at RWA’s national conference, Janice Hardy, writes Young Adult, but comes because of this type of support and learning.

    I know there are some romance writers who write some very dark romances, where they bleed with their prose, which can make for some pretty powerful HEAs, though now it’s also acceptable to have a HFN (Happy For Now), if you want to give it a shot 🙂 But however you go, stay strong and persevere!


    • CristineGzr
      Jan 21, 2013 @ 08:44:48

      Thanks Angela, I was following you long before I came to realize romance was a under-rated genre! I got a big kick out of Beer and groping in Las Vegas. Also, Nora Robert’s Witness was a geeky delite! I’m finding I am embracing HEA, since my life has turned out that way… big surprise to me! I may revisiting the bleeding on pages if I catch myself dwelling on the past -which I still do every now and then. I will definitely check out Janice Hardy’s books -dark and young adult go together so well in real life! LOL Where would we be without the angst-filled teens?


      • Angela Quarles
        Jan 21, 2013 @ 09:42:34

        Oh I didn’t realize this was you! I should’ve dug more on your blog 🙂 Glad you enjoyed BEER, and I’ll definitely check out Witness! Thanks!

      • CristineGzr
        Jan 21, 2013 @ 11:00:04

        LOL Well, I am trying to create the alt-pen-name identity but it (Veronica Jane Burke) is sadly more popular than me, so I try to fly under the radar and not besmirch her good name LOL Geek-husband actually liked Witness, now is that a good thing?

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