Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The First Line

How important is a first line to you when you read a book? Probably pretty darn important.

The next time you're in a bookstore, go to the fiction section and open several random novels. Read the first line . . . and see which ones make you want to keep reading.

My favorite first line of all is from a Jodi Picoult novel: "Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he tried to kill himself, but not the second or the third."

There are even contests just for first lines of novels. I remember reading last year's winner: "Her wedding dress was never worn."

In your own work, you’ve got to work hard on that first line. Really, really hard. Then do it over. Read it aloud to someone who will be brutally honest with you and ask him how effective the line was at “hooking” his attention.

If it doesn’t score a ten, toss it out and start again. It's that important.


Kelly Simmons said...

it is sooooo important. My editor hand-picked the first line for my debut novel, STANDING STILL, from the middle of the second chapter, and said, start here.
And she was right -- all the book clubs have affirmed that they love the opening line: "In all things, I blame the husband."

Suzanne said...

Wow, Kelly!

I've GOT to read your book! You've hooked me! What a great editor, too, to have nailed that line as a starting point.

Somewhere I read that most writers should toss out the entire first chapter and begin their novel with the second chapter.

Thanks for commenting! ~Suzanne