Daily Archives: January 14, 2019

Writing a Book Together: Why that First Line is Sooo Important

How is your ‘An opening sentence to a new novel every day‘ challenge going? Are you finding this a great warm up exercise? Are you coming up with new ways to start old books? Coming up with new ideas for new books? I love this exercise. It stretches the imagination and allows you to think outside whatever story you may be working on, but not so much that you get distracted. (You should have five or six new starts.)

Back in the olden days, the WAY olden days, if I started reading a book, I’d finish it. Things have changed. I’m growing old faster than before, I have far less patience and I figure if a first line doesn’t matter enough for a writer to try  to make it sing, maybe that’s how the writer feels with all her lines. I might be missing out on a few good books, but I’m finding lots more that rock.

(Three older novels with great openings, off the top of my head: Think Jandy Nelson’s first line in The Sky is Everywhere, Louise’s Plummer’s first line in A Dance for Three [everyone MUST find and read this book] and we can’t forget M.T. Anderson’s novel Feed.)

A great opening line can do so much . . . and it should. It can establish voice. Genre. Grab the reader by the throat and not let go. Hint at a problem. Establish mood. All those things at once.

The opening line is a welcome mat to the reader. An invitation.  A promise.

(This reminds me of when I was writing my first murder mystery and I realized fifty pages in I didn’t have a body. Not anywhere.  Hahahah! Back, back, back it up! I went back and added a dead person on page one.)

Once, on a panel, an author suggested the opening line didn’t matter then admitted her novel didn’t get good until page 35 or 40. Richard Peck might have asked, “Are you sure you’re starting in the right place?”

Don’t hope your reader will skim till things get better, or will feel obligated to read just because. Write, rewrite and rerewrite until your opening sings and your reader cannot, must not, put your book down.

PS I have about 1000 words on my newest romance. This morning I realized I needed to set the story in a new place. Being in a hospital ward has changed things up just a little. We’ll see what happens.

Where are you in your new book?





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