OK, I mention this only because a fellow Clarion-Wester (1998) posted the openings to his sold novels. That was in response to Tim Pratt's similar post.
Which got me thinking about my own writing, which I haven't decided whether 'tis good or bad (the thinking, not the writing).
I've never written a novel (well...not worth ever trying to send out), but I have sold two short stories, and one that got accepted by one editor and rejected by the next before it was published.
Here are the openings:
She couldn't find the good bluestone teapot. How she hungered for a simple sit-down tea, with fresh-baked crumpets slathered in strawberry jam, crusts broken open to moist, buttermilky interiors. If the muffin man came by, she could get them, still warm, from under the linen towel on his tray. (James James Morrison's Mother, written 1994)
He rode into New Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Beneath the rising Florida sun, he rode to meet his destiny, and they laid down palm fronds before him to cover the oil-splattered pavement. (Passover, written 1988)
"Here's the junction," said the driver in German, pulling his vehicle over to the boulder-strewn shoulder with a tight, apologetic smile. "Sorry I can't drive you up myself, but the road is very bad from here on."
Sure it is, thought Rolf. (Time Enough, written 1990?)
And then, just for fun because I can, here are the openings to the stories I wrote at Clarion in June/July 1998:
Nan turned the pickup down Hicks Road, eyes aching from the slow, careful drive back from Richmond. She pulled wide around the corner to avoid the top of the old hemlock sprawled across the intersection from the Smythes’ yard, more of Bella’s random litter. She and Sarah Smythe had built a treehouse in that tree in fifth grade and had watched the Millennium fireworks from it in seventh. (Disaster Area)
My life has not been ordinary. I have left my footprints in a thousand more places across the face of the earth than most women; I have lunched with princes and artists and whores; I have exposed myself to temperatures and heights and depths far beyond those that most people can even imagine. Life is uncertain; that is not a new idea but rings true for me and so risk is my chosen companion. But alone of all my experiences, only one has come into my life with the grandeur and portent of a comet, lingering briefly but with such silent intensity that one cannot but assume that one’s life has been altered forever by its passing. And that one thing was Jo. (Jo)
The icy spring melt had swollen Sentinel Creek to a roaring insanity. As it plunged from the high Sierras down its ancient granite defile towards Yosemite Valley, it smashed itself into a continuous spray that rained down on the steep trail winding uphill alongside it. (Untitled)
A woman sits in a public place.
You see how little this tells us? There is no scene, other than
public, no time, no season. She could be anywhere. She could be doing anything. There are so many options, so many ways to create a story with an ending that will fulfill us. Perhaps she is a young woman, in a park, pretending to read, waiting for her lover.
Or she could be an old woman, hands quivering, dressed in black, sitting outside the government building, waiting for the Public Assistant, who never comes. When businessmen walk by without looking at her, she calls out to them, "Calzone! Your mother makes Calzone!" And she spits. (Montage)
Jazz, she the woman. She preen afore the the glass-alas, her braid so long so gold, her face so smooth so pale. "Lower," say the Jazz. Glass-alas it lean from wall, it show her naked tum so flat. She thrust her shoulders back, she smile; boobs white, so firm so high where Mar-man, he like put his hands--she almost feel they heat. He young, her Mar, he twenty-five; she love that touch, that voice a-song when Mar he make rejazz for her, for Jazz. He young, that Mar, and so must she, and so must she. (DeLeon Redux)
The heat consumed Davidson's energy with uncaring voraciousness. Somewhere across the transformed Redknot Forest waited the conditioned air of base camp, the only human outpost on this planet's only continent. Somewhere behind him, hours or weeks--he couldn't recall anymore--lay the charred and shattered remains of the recon hover, half-buried by gottem vines before he had even staggered away into Primara's newborn jungle, following Reuben. (Reuben in a White-Hot Heat)
Ariella plunged her sinuous delicate white fingers into the delectably tempting display of bananas. Her mouth went dry with longing. Each fruit's ready hardness welcomed her touch. Perfect for another romantic breakfast with Pierre, she thought, her expressing turning blasé. Quickly her delicately muscled arm grabbed and thrust a bunch into her grocery basket. (Forbidden Pleasure)
When they hit the mine, Artie had just swerved to keep from running over a body half-tumbled from the undergrowth. As the explosion lifted the rear of the jeep up and over and dumped him beneath it, his gorge was just rising from the unexpected sight of a green-clad corpse. (Anything But the Brain)
Marla sat at her makeshift desk, staring at a pile of sample llama-hide pot holders instead of at the stack of unpaid bills next to them or at her nearly blank computer screen. A thin stream of mulberry incense wafted across her vision. Maybe if she had taken the pot holders down to Gloriosa’s Miscellany Mart last Saturday she could have sold enough to at least pay the rent. (Why Nothing Ever Gets Done Around Here)