Bad Innings vs Great Beginnings

Middle Son had baseball tourneys all weekend.  At ten, it’s his first year on the traveling league.  His team held its own, winning two of four games.

However, one game…yeah, that one…

After the first inning, the score was 12 – 0.  And we weren’t ahead.  We had some bad pitching and more than a handful of errors. 

Parents were crabby.  The kids were dejected and the coaches not thrilled.  Sports are as much a head game as they are a physical competition.  Psychologically we had already lost.

You won’t be surprised to learn that writing is exactly the same way.

A bad beginning leaves a bad taste in the mouth of our readers.  It can send them packing up their lawn chairs and sunflower seeds, already convinced there is nothing left to hold their interest. 

All too often, I’ve heard writers ask if they could send a random chapter for a submission.  Uhm, no.  Not unless you’re writing a nonfic.

Readers–of which agents and editors are–want to start with the scoreboard at 0-0.   If chapter one is not your strongest chapter, it shouldn’t set the tone of your entire novel.  You need a new beginning.  One that hits a homerun and keeps the crowd excited. 

Our little guys made quite the comeback in this game.  They didn’t win, but they made some great plays, hit some sticks and cut down on their error rate.  The next four innings were a blast to watch and not at all expected after the first bad inning.

But unlike spectators at a Little League game, agents and editors don’t have to stick around to see if you find our groove.  If we don’t throw a strike in the first inning, they’ll call us out and move on to the next promising team.

How important is your first page?  Your first paragraph?  First sentence?  Have you ever put a book back on the shelf when the first inning promised to be a wash? 

Curious minds want to know.

2 responses to “Bad Innings vs Great Beginnings

  1. I have, and from a best-selling author. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It was hard enough to get past the first page, but I plowed ahead as I was sure it would get better. That has never happened to me before. I couldn’t believe it was published as it was. Total blow out.

    Have fun with your little league. In my experience, it brought out the worst in parents. Lots of embarassing meltdowns. But I can see you sitting there, totally collected and upbeat.

    • Yvonne,

      Sadly, I’ve had that experience once before with a book. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become picky about the books I pick up. My time is too short to read through everything now in hopes that it will live up to the hype. One bad beg-inning and I’m done.

      Oh yes, LL can make parents and coaches act worse than toddlers. What’s so sad is that it teaches our kids it’s okay to act that way. I won’t even let my kids complain about a bad call. “I wasn’t out on first, but…” I tell them a call is a call is a call. Respect it, even if you don’t agree with it. And never blame the loss on factors you can’t control. “If that ump wouldn’t have…” Yeah. How about, “If I would have hit better, run faster or thrown harder.”?

      Every moment in life is a teaching moment. Sadly, we often teach the wrong things by the way we act and react.


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