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Writing Books/Opening lines


Hi Susan,

I went onto Google and typed in "How to start writing a book" and of the huge piles that came up, the first one I read was on your site where you had helped another Michelle (her's has two l'ls and was in 2004)and I thought "how profound!" - so thought you were the one to help me with this request.

I've been asked to consider writing my story to be included in a book that's being compiled, in memory of a very dear and exceptionally clever man who died last year.

The lady who's asked me, has been my councellor and was intoduced to me by my doctor. She helped after he'd done what he could with me medically and he saw I needed some mental help.She has been his social friend for many years and is also an expert in the HIV field.I went through a very angry denial period and she helped me get to where I am now.
I'm 100% improved am in what is termed an "undetectable" stage, have just celebrated my gorgeous grandchild's first birthday, have just started a new job in the Fish River Canyon and this was when I should have been dead and gone.

He was Prof Ruben Sher and he was my doctor at the start of my having to deal with finding out I was HIV positive. My "profile" didn't match the norm so it took until I was nearly dead, before I was correctly diagnosed. Prof Sher's treatment of both the disease and his attitude to me as a person is the reason I'm still here.

She was so excited when I agreed to do it, as I have not been open about what I've been through with anyone other than my immediate family.It was ONLY because it was for a book in his memory that I agreed. I've even agreed to have photo's published, which my three daughter's are ecstatic about as they see it a huge step for me.
Without him I would not be here today.
I had also had breast cancer about fifteen years ago and had thought that that was my fair share of life's trials - so when the HIV arrived on my radar I totally collapsed.

I need an "opening" line .When I read something it is the opening line that gets my attention and I'm dithering with getting my own.

Now that I"ve agreed to do it I've gone into a flunk as to how I am going to actually start it.I feel i've got writer's block at the first sentence.I want it to open with a good sentence and for the end result to be memorable for both Prof Sher's memory and my own.

I was thinking of something along the lines of:
"The worst found me and then I found the Best............."?????

What do you think and can you help with how I can brainstorm any more?

Thanx so much
"Another" Michele

Hello Michele:

Thank you for the compliment, and I'm glad you found me!

I can't write your opening line for you, but I will say this. The purpose of an opening line (or paragraph) is to seize the reader's attention and prompt them to read on. Therefore, it must raise a question in the reader's mind. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader becomes mentally agitated to a more or less degree, wanting to know the answer to the question. That persuades them to read on.

A college professor once told me, in regard to starting, "Start two seconds before everything changes for the worse." To me, that would be your diagnosis - surely after that everything changed for you! That's where I would begin. What you are writing is not a story, but an essay of the persuasive type, helping to prove what a great person your subject was, and why they should be remembered. Just tell what happened in plain and simple language, and try to get some emotion in - not only your thoughts, but your feelings, also.

I hope this helps. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high scores over 1350+ questions.

And thanks for writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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