Monday, May 23, 2011


The first sentence of your book can be nerve wracking. Writers are told that all our hopes hang on these 10 to 20 words (unless you are Dickens:) Feeling the pressure?

On top of the pressure there are all kinds of arbitrary rules: No dialogue, No weather, No back story, and most important Nothing boring! Break these rules and the door to the publishing world will be slammed in your face like a solicitor. But rules are made to be broken--oh, I forgot, No cliche's:) Instead of rules how about a few ideas:

  • Start it in a way that makes sense for your story.
  • Leave your reader with a question.
  • Showcase something special.
  • Think about your book as a whole.

Lisa Mangum said that the first sentence is important but it matters less than the first page. That makes me feel good. It means I have about 250 words to grab a reader instead of 20.

Just to prove that point here are a few first sentences from some of my favorite books:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and a fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her. – AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

Have I done the right thing in establishing Georgiana in London, I wonder? – DARCY’S DIARY by Amanda Grange

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. – TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. – HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling

On the morning of that day in March, in the Year of the Boar, when the ugly stranger came to Tsin Kai-feng, I opened my eyes and felt a pang of despair to find nothing had changed. – MOONRAKER’S BRIDE by Madeleine Brent

You can see, some are great and some are just okay. The point is they were good enough to keep me reading. It was the book that made it my favorite not the first sentence. I’m not saying don’t write a killer first sentence. I’m just saying don’t stress about it.


1 comment:

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Great book choices!
You got me thinkin'....

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