How is it that I can write a thousand words of a novel without too much effort, yet a single paragraph of perhaps 50 is causing me no end of grief? I know the answer already - that single paragraph is the most important one in the entire story; it's the very first one, otherwise known as the "hook", the one readers (not to mention agents) look at and decide if they want to give you any more of their valuable reading time or drop you back in the book-bin.
Several minutes ago I experienced the hook in action. Having heard about a new release by fellow Adelaidean, Richard Harland - World Shaker - I thought I'd trundle along to Borders in my lunchtime and check it out. It took a little while to find it in the Vampires R Us section (otherwise known as Young Adult's Fiction), but I finally did. I opened to the first page, read the first paragraph, and Richard Harland leaped out, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, dragged me forcibly to the counter and made me buy his book. Well - perhaps not literally, but he may as well have done. Chalk up one sale for Borders, courtesy of an extremely well written opening paragraph.
Will this help me develop my own hook? Not so much - Richard's style is Richard's style, not mine. Will it motivate me to continue scratching away until I find that hook? Absolutely definitely positively. Reading something like that just reinforces the importance of those first few words, and makes me even more determined to get it right, however long it takes.
All I need to do now is tear myself away from reading World Shaker.