The First Monumental Word

I may have to give up on my search for the perfect first line. I keep going back for it. I haven’t made much progress at all with Attempt #3 at writing the new novel—yep, I went back not once but twice to start over from scratch. Drastic scratch. Brand-new and blank Word document, after all the many pages that came before. The concept gets better each time (I hope), but the page count keeps falling off to oblivion. The current problem seems to be the new starting point, the first note at which to open the whole entire book. It doesn’t matter if I’ve written scenes that come after, I have to get the first line down. I have to know it in order to know the tone and mood and lens through which to see everything that comes after. Don’t I?

I may have to let go. On that first paragraph. On that first sentence. Especially on the first word, which I am putting a lot of weight on. The first sentence now starts with the word “It.” I can’t have a novel start with the word “It,” I told myself! (I’m so dramatic.) So, in horror, I went back this morning, even though I’d made progress way past the first page the other day. And I am staring at “It” and I can’t find another way to craft that particular sentence without starting with “It” and so, unavoidably, the sentence has fallen to pieces and I just erased it entirely from the document and am now first-sentenceless.

Will this ever end?

Question: How long does it take to find your first line? Have you ever written a whole entire draft and gone back and filled in the first line later? Can you know your book without knowing at what exact pinpoint in time where it starts? Can you? (Yeah, yeah, I know that’s more than one question.)

I usually get my first sentence before I can continue. I’ve skipped the middle before, but never the start. The start, for me, is everything.

And, p.s., you think that’s bad? My narrator has changed names at least five times.

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