fiction / new york city / novels / writing

Found on Subway Platform

In addition to what I couldn’t help bragging about last night, I am also making some progress in one other area of my life that doesn’t involve instant cooking. I found what may be the first line of the novel yesterday while I was taking the subway home from work. I say it like I happened upon it, crumpled on the subway platform, still warm. It came actually as I was getting out at my stop and heading up the stairs to the surface. I had to step aside on the passage between train lines and find somewhere to scribble the words—but I had no paper. In desperation, hunched up against a pole out of the way of foot traffic, I found an old receipt and—such luck!—a half-bent pen. Then I scribbled out the line in a fury. And I thought with some surprise and great pleasure, Oh.

Now, the line may not end up being the actual first line of the book—it doesn’t always stick. But I need a jumping-off point, a specific first note. I can’t just plop myself down anywhere in the story, now can I?

With the new first line in hand I’ll now have to go back and rework the scattered scenes I wrote this weekend. All, somehow, will find themselves mushed up together into some semblance of a first chapter.

Have you noticed that I am already breaking my own rules? I have. I said I was going to write a pitch first, not the brand-new chapter one first. Listen, I just don’t do well with rules and regulations okay? Even if I’m the one to invent them. Rules are meant to be broken.

I skipped my new favorite café this morning and made the longer walk to the writing spot I go to on weekends. I avoided the café because I just wasn’t in the mood for snark, and sometimes I feel like I’m a much freer writer when I can take off my shoes.

I think, when I’m stuck on this new novel, that I should ride the trains. I get ideas that way. Also while walking in the dark around the perimeter of the park—on the way home a possible new title came on the northwest corner. Sitting still keeps me clogged.

I’m in a slightly better mood today. Then again, it could be the pudding.

3 thoughts on “Found on Subway Platform

  1. I LOVE this description of you scribbling down the first line, Nova. It gave me goosebumps…because it’s so exciting when part of a novel just floats into your head like that. I need one of those moments soon!

  2. I find first lines on subway platforms too (when I am lucky). Only of course not on subway platforms anymore. Now it is usually while I am driving, and I have to mutter it over and over under my breath – not too loud or it is real – until I get to a red light and can scribble it down.

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