I wrote a little while ago about opening lines from books. I was discussing the opening to my first novel The Great Wide Open and mentioned I might list some of my favourite novel opening lines, well here goes:

(Might do some endings another time)

“Hale knew before he had been in Brighton half an hour, that they meant to kill him.”

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene

“Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel”.

JPod, Douglas Coupland

“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.  I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.”

On The Road, Jack Kerouac

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

1984, George Orwell

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it”

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“’Abandon hope all ye who enter here’ is scrawled in blood red lettering in the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street.”

American Psycho, Brett Easton-Ellis

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The way a writer starts a novel can really hook you into their narrative.

There are some awesome starts to novels. A few of which I might list at some point.

Why does this matter?

If you enjoy the opening line, it can be a promise of a good narrative. An exciting story, the fulfilment of why you picked up the book in the first place.

The first novel I wrote, The Great Wide Open, is a heavily fictionalised and compressed, alternate reality version of part of my first year at what in the UK we call Sixth Form (the school two schools year from aged 16-18).

I studied English Literature in those years and one of the lessons we were taught surrounded introductions to narratives We were being taught analysis of text. But I saw it as part of my education in how to write.

That first year at Sixth Form I began writing The Great Wide Open (It took several more years to complete – a common theme in my writing – finally being finished when I was 22).

As part of the novel I reflected on this lesson about beginnings and in a post modern way I included pastiche of other beginnings. See the photo with this blog of that novel’s opening page.

Maybe I was being a bit pretentious and maybe not. You tell me…

My only defence is: I was young. And like so many things in youth (see the narrative of The Great Wide Open) it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Digital publishing should be leading a revolution in publishing bringing great books to the masses – but this is stalling due to price.

Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, introduced paperback novels in 1935 with the intention that books should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes.

I don’t buy cigarettes, but my friend Google tells me in the UK they cost a bit less than £6.50 for a pack of 20.

Second on the Amazon best selling book as I write is by Bradley Wiggins, the paperback costs £7.19 from Amazon (RRP £7.99)  while the Kindle edition costs £6.29 (and the reason I have selected 2nd on the best seller list is because first doesnt appear to have a Kindle edition thanks Jamie Oliver)

So the paperback costs more than the cigarettes, while the digital edition costs marginally less than they do.

Let’s think about this for a minute – the difference between a paperback and the Kindle edition is 90p.

That 90p must account for the cost of printing, the cost of paper, the cost of shipping, the cost of storage and possibly other costs I am not factoring in. And bearing in mind publishers sell to retailers at least 50% discount for paper books, then we should be looking at 45p as being the cost of each of those things.

While the Kindle edition is some data uploaded to Amazon who then download it after the customer purchases. Quite often the data is a couple of megabits which if it costs anything at all to store and transmit, cannot be more than a few pence.

So why does a couple of MBs of data cost not much less than a paperback (with all the costs of printing, transporting and storing) ????

I don’t know what is going on in the offices of big publishing houses across the planet, so I hesitate to say this is all about profiteering – they may have a legitimate reason – which I would really like to hear (feel free to comment to explain yourself if you work at a big publishing house).

However, what I do know is I have four books available on Amazon* – three are almost out of print as paperbacks (and the publisher doesn’t plan to print anymore as they will be available forever on Kindle) – but all are available in Kindle.

The paperback prices are in the range you would expect as compared to books from other publishing houses. But, the Kindle editions all retail at £1.92 (which is based on the US price of $2.99 which I understand is the minimum price you can put on a Kindle book). 

I mention the prices of my books primarily to make the point I am practicing what I am preaching (and if Amazon removes their minimum price I think they would go down again – publishing to a literate world should be about volume of sales not price per unit – the industry values best sellers (not highest priced sellers) after all.

Market forces will win out and the big publishing houses will flourish or not in the digital era. But keeping prices more or less the same for paper objects compared to couple of MBs downloads is probably not sustainable – look at what Apple has done to CDs with iTunes at 79p a track. Look at what Netflix and others are doing to movie and box set DVD sales.

The digital revolution is here and if the old publishers cannot change the price then new ones who will change the cost and the business model to compete will rise up and take their place – it is how the market works.

 

*My books available on Kindle:

The Joy of Ex

Fragments

UHF Shadow

The Great Wide Open

The Great Wide Open

May 26, 2011

My first attempt at writing a novel (now refined) is available from:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1222989

This is a re-working of the novel I had a go at writing when I was 16.
Probably 65% of the content is from 1993 and the rest a bit of a re-write in 1999 and a further re-write to pull it all together in 2009.

The back page blurb says:
“When you are 16 the adult world is a great wide open space full of possibilities. Or at least it should be.
The grunge-fuelled early 1990s, saw the last of Generation X reach adulthood.
Will and his friends are among the last born to this desolate, degenerate generation.
They are full of hormones, full of alcohol and full of fears about the grown up world.”

My new (ish) novel has been published.
This is a re-working of the novel I had a go at writing when I was 16.
Probably 65% of the content is from 1993 and the rest a bit of a re-write in 1999 and a further re-write to pull it all together in 2009.

The back page blurb says:
“When you are 16 the adult world is a great wide open space full of possibilities. Or at least it should be.
The grunge-fuelled early 1990s, saw the last of Generation X reach adulthood.
Will and his friends are among the last born to this desolate, degenerate generation.
They are full of hormones, full of alcohol and full of fears about the grown up world.”

I am trying a new appreoach to publishing for this book, so it is available from:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1222989

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