Friday, September 15, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 9 Choosing the Best Opening Scene

by Elva Cobb Martin

How are you coming with your dream novel you want to write? I hope this series of blogs describing my journey helps you. We've covered eight other topics you can find in the archives. Today I want to share about what may be the most important scene to plan in your entire novel--that opening scene you hope will hook editors and readers.

I do a lot of thought and planning and getting advice from other writers about my opening scene. Trust me, it gets changed a lot. ( :

Here are the three different opening scenes I polished up over the last months of planning.Can you guess which one I have used in my final work?  Just yesterday I sent my proposal and first three chapters to my agent to send to editors, and breathed a sigh of relief after working all summer on this. Do pray God will divinely connect me to His best choice of editor and publisher for this projected inspirational historical series.

Here are the three opening scenes from which I chose one to send out in my proposal. I am also giving you the premise, pitch and two back cover tags lifted from my proposal to get you into the scene. You can find articles on each of these in my recent archives.

Premise of Spanish Rose
Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most appalling experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Pitch: Marisol Valentin flees the murder of a Spanish nobleman who molested her by sailing to the New World only to realize no one but God can turn good out of evil when her exposed past threatens to destroy all her dreams of love and security.

Back Cover Tags:  1) Loving Her Can Wrap the Chains of the Inquisition Around His Neck.  2) Can Love Overcome the Past and Ignite a New Beginning?

Beginning #1

Chapter 1       Charles Town 1740

Cloaked in the early morning shadows of the cemetery, Marisol Valentin watched Captain Ethan Becket place flowers on his wife’s grave. Her heart hammered so hard she feared he might hear. He had left Charles Town as the grieving minister of the small Presbyterian Church and returned as privateer captain of his own ship.

       His bronzed face, thicker arms and chest only hinted at the greater change she sensed beneath his seaman’s demeanor. How had this gentle man
become what many would call a pirate?
Ethan turned and she shrank behind a monument.
“Marisol.” His deep voice rooted her bare feet in the dew-laden grass.
He strode toward her. “I’m glad you followed me. “I have something to tell you.”
Trembling, she looked up into his bearded face and startling grey eyes.
“You must know how much I appreciate your care for  Joshua these past few weeks. A smile tugged at his thin lips beneath his mustache.
She nodded and heat climbed her neck at his closeness. A scent of sea, leather and spice tantalized her senses.
“My parents will be immigrating to Charles Town, along with my Cousin Emma. They will take over Joshua’s care.”
Joshua. His child she’d grown to love. Her heart fell and the blood drained from her cheeks. What was he saying? Was he selling her indenture paper?
He searched her countenance and his forehead furrowed. Then he laid a broad, warm hand on her shoulder. “But in no wise are you to fret about your future, Marisol.” His frown relaxed. “I am going to arrange your freedom from any indentured obligation, and I’ll help return you safely to your home and family. Wherever that is.”
Marisol averted her face and tried to swallow, but her mouth dried up like a potsherd. She could never return home. 

Beginning #2
Chapter 1   Charles Town, 1740  

Hidden deep in the ship's hold, Marisol Valentin rocked her sleeping charge on her lap. If only she could keep her one-year-old Samuel quiet and their presence secret for a few more hours. Once they were well out to sea, surely Captain Becket would not turn back to Charles Town. Would he be furious she’d stowed away and with her son he had adopted?

Reverend Ethan Becket, now Captain Becket of his own ship, a French merchantman. Just thinking her indentured master’s name, not to mention his new status, caused Marisol’s heart to jump in her chest and her breath to catch. But the next moment, moisture gathered in her eyes and her shoulders slumped. Her secret past weighed like a sack of stones on her back.
       Samuel whimpered and awoke. Shaking aside her troubled thoughts, Marisol looked down into the bright eyes of her toddler, his rosy face and dark hair a perfect blend of her English and Spanish heritage. Thank God no resemblance of her attacker showed up in the child's looks. That face she longed to forget.
 “Good morning, little man,” she whispered and kissed him on the cheek. “We’re on an adventure with Captain Becket. You’re on a real ship. Feel the movement? Hear the waves lapping the hull? Isn’t it wonderful? You’ll get to be with your adopted father every day.”

And so will I. But what chance would a soiled piece of goods like her ever have with a man like him?

Beginning #3

Chapter One    Cadiz, Spain, 1740   
Marisol Valentin fought her way to consciousness on the barn floor under her attacker. Managing to free one hand twisted behind her, she wrenched the knife from her boot and thrust it deep into the man arched over her. He uttered a curse, then his eyes glazed over, and he fell forward. She spit out the cravat he’d stuffed in her mouth and pushed his heavy, lifeless form from her. Her hands came back wet and sticky. The acrid odor of blood replaced the sweet scent of hay and horses and her stomach roiled. She groaned and sat up, holding her palms outstretched. She wiped them on her torn skirt and struggled to stand.
 After pulling her clothing together as best she could, she peered at the still form lying beyond her. Diego Vargas, nobleman of Cadiz, would never harm another maiden. But that would not help her now. He had ruined her for life. Tears coursed down her cheeks. Then her lips curled and her fists clenched. He got what he deserved, and she was not sorry. Even if she hanged for it. But la policĂ­a would have to catch her first.  

Marisol pressed her wet face on the neck of her beloved mare and said a hasty goodbye. She stumbled across the dark stable yard, and up the back stairs of the hacienda. Bursting into her bedchamber, she shoved the door closed, and leaned against it.

 “Oh, my lady.” Her maid dropped the gown she was laying out on the bed and hurried to her side. “What has happened?”


Which opening do you like the best?  Thanks for stopping by. Do leave a comment and share on your social media.

Elva Cobb Martin