I recently had the opportunity to chat with a submissions editor (you never know who you’ll run into at a coffee shop) and we had a discussion about first lines of a book, and how important they are.
I knew already how important it was to hook a reader quickly, but Mike told me that he actually knows by reading the FIRST LINE if he is going t request a full or not when he reads through submissions.
That’s not much time to make a first impression, is it?
That’s why I jumped at the chance to post ONLY MY FIRST LINE for “The First Day of the New Tomorrow” over at The Ladies Cave website today.
Hop on over. This line obviously grabbed my editor’s attention. Tell me what you think!
But while you still here…
What’s your first line?
Do you think it has the goods to grab a reader/editor in once sentence?
- Levels of “No,” or Why I Reject Manuscripts (nepheletempest.wordpress.com)
- S.O.S. Sending Out Submissions (writersrumpus.com)
- Manuscript Wish Lists Hashtag Returns (mediabistro.com)
- What does an agent want you to fix before you send that manuscript? (shelleykwall.wordpress.com)
I don’t know about the first line, but I’m on the editorial board of a literary journal and I can say that I usually know within the first paragraph or two. I often know it will be a “no” by the first sentence though. Reading through piles of slush will do that to you. 😉
I like your first line 🙂 18 Things: The best sight on the lake was Conner after he slid out of his shirt.
18 Truths: Every morning when I woke up, the biggest truth I’ve ever faced landed like a grenade in my heart.
*How’d I do? 🙂
Very nice in both accounts. I remember that first line in 18 Things. It was awesome- and made the end of the scene such a big surprise.
Reece Bartten is no pushover where her hard-earned money is concerned.
That’s pretty good 🙂
Wow. I hoped to hear something along those lines. Thank you, Jennifer.
Just make sure your second sentence lives up to it.
I believe so. You’ve given me hope. 😉
I wonder if your editor friend ever had an amazing first line but the rest of the story fell flat.
I’m sure it’s happened.
I have aread several books where I was hooked in the first page or two but never finished because the story fell on its face. Then there are stories like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I couldn’t get past the first 3 pages to keep reading that I hear ends up being a fantastic book (it’s one of those, ‘you just have to stick with it’) kind of books.
Good, I thought it was only me.
Madeleine O’Brien rose from her crouched position over the grave.
I like it, and I hope readers will, too….
Meesa likes! 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Here’s a first line of two different stories I’m working on:
“Jess cleans up pretty well, doesn’t she,” said Derrick, winking as he introduced me to his posse of admirers: doctors, politicians, scientists, the movers and shakers of his public health world.
And the second:
When the doorbell rang in mid afternoon, Big Bird was chatting up Cookie Monster in the dim light of the living room.
I don’t know if anyone is going to want to read any further, or not.
The second definitely appeals to a nitch audience
LOL. So true.
That first line is crucial to any writing, whether it’s an email, a manuscript or even a blog. My first line today on my blog: “Geese are to blame for the first big-league bad word I said in front of my mom.”
At least my mom will be interested to read on!
That’s funny 🙂
I’ve needed funny to get my foot in many doors. Or, any.
Those first lines are very important, aren’t they? I try to give them as much punch as I can. For example, in one of my Sci/fi novels, a WiP, the very first line is, “Mayday! Mayday!”
My first published novel started with, “Michelle, there’s going to be a spectacular Harvest Moon, tonight,” Mom called out as I shrugged into my jean jacket. – Probably a little lame, but it did set the scene for what was about to happen.
The sequel began with, “Your great-grandmother is very ill,” Mom said, hanging up the phone.
The start of the third book in that series is, All I wanted for my sixteenth birthday was a ticket to the coolest band of the century.
I’ll have to wait & see whether that last line makes it into the published version, but I suspect it will because the the next couple of lines support it with: Was that too much to ask? All I got was a piece of rock on a leather thong and some crazy story about traveling in time… 🙂
I dinno. My actual first lines are kind of weak, but I try and make it up with the subsequent ones. The first is Paul waking from a nightmare screaming, and I’ve heard that some agents think that’s overdone. The other book starts off with the narrator telling her name, but then I follow it with a statement about how she once saved the world and feels cursed because of it, which I think is a pretty good hook.
“Paul woke from the nightmare, his scream still ringing in his ears, only to see the familiar, dirty brown ceiling above him.”
“My name is Kaebora, bearer of nine tails, Grand Vizier for Queen Raven, and her mother before her.”
My third, sequel to BtB is a little more interesting I think 😉 The first chapter is called “seraglio”
“Butterfly lay in the tangle of limbs and bare flesh that were her Mai’hazzar sisters.”
I think if you have a quirky concept, like parents trading their child for money, then yes, a quirky first line works. Otherwise, I think good writing is the key. Widdershins has a great one, there. Dialogue that betrays a tense situation and reveals character.
The first line of my novel is:
Moonlight cast blue shadows on the snow, turning the drifts across the pasture into waves on a silent sea.
The first line of a story I’m working on:
The click-clacking of the roller coaster set Marsh’s heart beating in sympathetic rhythm as it ascended the first hill.
i have two:
Eric squinted into the morning sun, his stride wide and determined as he plowed his way across the castle’s upper courtyard.
I was ten years old when Mother and Father father traded me to the banker for money.
I LOVE your second first line! Who wouldn’t want to find out more about this world where such things can happen? Who wouldn’t want to know why the kid’s parents did this? Hilarious!
Thank you, Jilanne. It’s actually a very dark, YA fantasy story that came to me in a dream. It stuck with me so much I had to write it down. It hasn’t let me go yet, which means there is still some work to do to it before I let my beta readers rip it apart. 🙂
Woa! That second one rocks!
It’s the opening line to Summerfirth. 🙂 it’s actually an intense fantasy YA novella..
Reblogged this on Blog of an e-marketer by Main Uddin.
I dunno … waddya reckon?:
“Hey Nando? You’re coming in a little tight there, buddy.” Siddy’s posture belied his calm tone.