Just how good is the first line of your manuscript?

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.


Now Available from Jennifer M. EatonThat’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?



32 responses to “Just how good is the first line of your manuscript?

  1. 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. 😉

  2. 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? 🙂

  3. How’s this?
    Reece Bartten is no pushover where her hard-earned money is concerned.

  4. I wonder if your editor friend ever had an amazing first line but the rest of the story fell flat.

  5. Madeleine O’Brien rose from her crouched position over the grave.

    I like it, and I hope readers will, too….

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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… 🙂

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Perfect BloggersTech
  13. I dunno … waddya reckon?:

    “Hey Nando? You’re coming in a little tight there, buddy.” Siddy’s posture belied his calm tone.