Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night
First Line Revision Journey

Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night

By Megan Litwin

I didn't stumble upon the opening line for this story until about the 17th draft! I was reading another book with a repeated refrain throughout and realized I wanted to add that sort of repetition into my manuscript. At that moment, in my local library, twinkle, twinkle, winter night, everywhere you look there’s light came to me. It set just the right lyrical tone and referenced the very familiar Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, which I felt would help readers find the beats. Lastly, that line really speaks to the heart of this book and what I hope is most memorable to kids. So I guess I would say another element of a good first line is just that: Sometimes it can be good to start with the heart of the story. I liked the idea of beginning with what is most important. Then it was still about draft 25 or so (I lost count of tiny tweaks) before this manuscript was ready.

Here is a condensed evolution of that first line:

December is here, with a sudden deep chill.

It is darker than dark - and still...

Deep and dark, December night,

brings us magic and delight.

In the deep and dark of night,

winter wonder twinkles bright.

Twinkle, twinkle, winter night,

Everywhere you look there's light

I went from naming December (the month when I wrote the first draft) to focusing instead on winter because December felt far too specific. I also went from beginning with the "dark" to focusing right away on the "light”. It felt more joyful and magical and inviting that way!

But it took me all those drafts, and years of thinking/shelving/revising/tweaking to figure all that out.