I am going to be doing something new on this site: Work In Progress
I would like to give our readers a chance to see some nonfiction work take shape. If you are an author doing some interesting research; if you are an artist and you would like to share your steps from reference, to sketch, to finished art; if you are a designer and you can show the steps you have taken in laying out a nonfiction book, I am going to start a regular feature where you can show your work. To be clear, in featuring a work, I am not endorsing the published book — and certainly SLJ isn’t. This feature is not a review. Instead it is a peek inside the process of creating nonfiction. Now I could see teachers using it in class along with the published book. But in general we will be looking at books long before they see print.
There are kinks to be worked out, so I can’t give you the date for the first appearance of this feature. But I think we could all have fun with this. It was suggested to me by the folks at Mikaya, so they will be first up. So, for today, while we work backstage, please keep sending in your first lines.
I notice we don’t have any historical fiction yet. How does a great first line in historical fiction differ from one in nonfiction? And here’s another option, for those of you who have exhausted your first lines — what is a great last line in nonfiction? There is an arc to a nonfiction book, it leads from one time to another, from birth to death, from the beginning of an event to its conclusion. Which books have done the best job of delivering that final punch, of leaving us with a takeaway, of arriving at the perfect soft landing where we can take in what we have just experienced?
So far I am seeing some trends — those who like punch, immediacy; those who like details, specificity; those who like tone, atmosphere; those who like to be given an artful hint of the upcoming themes; those drawn to voice. Am I missing something? I am sure you all know this, but the four adult first lines were King James Bible; Moby Dick; Ulysses; Finnegans Wake.