The first chapter of my book opens with my grandmother telling me in her fractured English I shouldn’t be a nurse. Her garlicky breath still resonates in my olfactory recollection. This chapter has been critiqued once in a master class at an annual writer’s conference and work-shopped at least twice in writing groups.
So when I read Benjamin Percy’s essay, “Where’s Papa Going with that Axe?”On Opening with Dialogue in Glimmer Train, I felt broadsided with good advice I didn’t want to hear. He makes a convincing case for NOT opening with dialogue.
Then I came across Michah Nathan in the same Glimmer Train bulletin 67 who had this to say:
“Good writers develop a style that works for them. They write, they fail, and they write again. The trick is prying apart the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, and seeing how it all works. Good writers intuitively know this. They certainly don’t need me getting in the way.
So in honor of that self-immolating preamble, I give you the only useful advice I can muster: cultivate selective stubbornness.” (Read more)
I have a friend who once told me she wasn’t implementing most of the suggestions she solicited and paid for from a literary professor at a prestigious university. At the time, I thought her crazy. Her well-written book has been published. Her voice runs consistently through each chapter.
I’m not sure if I will move the dialogue from the beginning of my first chapter. Maybe not. Editing is not just applying skills and craft but following an inner faith that your story will be told in your unique voice.