Ask A Wench: First Sentences

Fountainpen
Susanna here
, with our Ask A Wench post for this month.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Andrew Pyper, author of The Homecoming, for a session at my local library, and while doing my preparation for that interview I came across an article he’d written for the Globe & Mail in 2012, called Crafting the Novel’s Crucial First Line.

Here’s an excerpt:

“no writerly preoccupation is more universally shared – or has been the cause of more agonized hours staring at the blank page – than the First Line…
How we begin a book is widely considered to be a matter so crucial, so decisive in determining whether a book soars or stalls, so elusive and mysterious, it's often spoken of in terms closer to spell-casting than sentence making…
There are no rules as to how to do it, other than one. A first line cannot, under any circumstances, be dull.”

*******

I’m a sucker for a good first sentence.


I still remember the first sentence of Donna Thorland’s The Rebel Pirate, which I was lucky enough to read in galley proofs, before it was even published: “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.” (And I was hooked).

Rose garden us2In my own books, the first sentence is my way into the story—like a magic key that opens the locked door.

When ideas start to swirl, I wait for that first sentence to take shape, because it always does—and stubbornly.

One sentence that refused to let me go was this: “I lost my only sister in the last days of September.” Which was truth, and one that seemed to painful then for me to even think of using as the springboard for a novel. But that one line kept returning to me, in a voice that wasn’t mine, so in the end I simply changed the month—September to November—and it was no longer my loss then, but that of Eva Ward, my heroine.And so began my journey through The Rose Garden.

The novel that I’m writing now began with a first sentence that rose up out of my research in a voice I hadn’t been expecting, telling me, “I was a younger man when I first met her.” So I’m on that journey now.

For me, it’s always a thrilling moment when that first sentence forms in my mind, because that’s the moment when I truly know I have a book—not just a gathering of thoughts and plot ideas, but a book I can begin to write.

So, fellow Wenches, how do YOU find your first sentences? Do they come easily, or are they difficult? And are they truly the first thing you write? Do you have any favorites among the first sentences you've written over the years?

Shattered RainbowsMary Jo here.

I don't consider myself particularly good at first lines, and yes, they do get whapped around and polished and changed. There are a couple I rather like. In Shattered Rainbows, the first line is "She needed a husband, and she needed one fast." (For suitably convoluted reasons, of course!)

I also liked the first line of my one Western novella, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know: "He was going to be hanged on Tuesday." Nicely to the point, I thought. As for my other first lines—I can't remember any that are particularly interesting!

 

Joanna here.

Beauty like the night 59kbIn my own somewhat haphazard writing way, I don’t even try to lay down my first sentence first. How could I? I don’t know the characters yet. I may not know the story. I keep plugging away at the opening, twiddling with it, poking it, dissatisfied. Sometimes that first line is the last thing I tack down.

I want the first line to connect strongly with the rest of the story. It should be intriguing and interesting. It should pull the reader into the “now” moment of Important Stuff Happening. And it’s nice if it's also just chock full of the crunchy taste of the protagonist.

That’s a lot to ask of a little flock of words, isn’t it?

I have a couple first lines that please me . . .

"She was willing to die, of course, but she had not planned to do it so soon, or in such a prolonged and uncomfortable fashion, or at the hands of her own countrymen." (Spymaster’s Lady)

"She slid out of sleep and knew there was a man in her room." (Beauty Like the Night)

Susan here.

Finding the right opening can be luck or struggle. With some of my books, the first line pops in early when the ideas start bubbling, and sometimes those feel just right and stick around with minimal change. With other books, I’ll come up with one opening after another, entry points, different angles, doors to the story. Then I have to choose, and I’m not great with choices. I rewrite and rethink, but if it just doesn’t come together, I know it’s time to step back and reconsider the best way into the story, and the right character POV.

Sword maidenThis one came in early and stayed:

“Wild as blackberries she was, sweet and dark and unruly, and she would never be his.” – The Sword Maiden

I scribbled that on a legal pad as the opening for Chapter One. Later, filling out the backstory, I wrote a prologue. But for me, the blackberry line is still the origin point for the story and the characters. The second line also popped in with it: “Lachlan MacKerron knew it, had always known it.” With those two sentences, my characters and their starting relationship appeared, and I set off to figure out the rest.

Here's another line that appeared early. I kept it throughout research, writing, and much angsty revision:

“Snowflakes dazzle against the evening sky, and fall gentle around this stark tower.” – Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth paperback coverI scribbled that while researching the early idea—and right away it told me that the story, if I really was going to take on that iconic character, needed to be in first person. I resisted, tried writing in third person, as I was used to doing. But I kept going back to that first line and a direct perspective, even using present tense for the first and last chapters. It just worked best. Writing Lady M was one hurdle and discovery after another, and that first line came through loud and clear, and I learned a lot.

Then there are considerations of style, and hooks, what pulls a reader in and catches their interest, what the opening line tells the reader about what lies ahead. First lines are better kept fresh and lightly edited, and if a writer is lucky, they come in easily and clearly and retain that freshness. We’re not always that lucky. I’ve deleted more than my fair share of convoluted attempts to find the door to a story!

 

Pat here.

WyckerlyI’ve been writing since I was a kid in elementary school. I’ve been aware of the importance of a first sentence for decades. And yet my Muse still insists on creating “first scenes.” I may not even have a story or characters, but that first scene is what drives me to write a story. The first sentence? Well, it changes every time I edit the work in progress. I just really don’t see the point of pouring all my energy into one line as long as that first paragraph grabs a reader and drags them into the book.

As a case in point, one of my best-selling books is Wicked Wyckerly. Now the first scene in that book actually changed drastically from the time I thought of the book until I was ready to write it down. But once I was ready to write it, I just couldn’t do a lot more to those first few sentences then appeared when I finally wrote them:

"John Fitzhugh Wyckerly, newly styled seventh Earl of Danecroft, tilted back his late father’s wooden office chair and plopped his muddy boots on a towering stack of yellowed invoices. From that position, he contemplated the gun collection on the far wall, left to him by his freshly departed brother.

If guns were the solution to his problems, he had a vast array from which to choose."

I hope that this small bit gives the book and hero a voice, insight into the depth of his dilemma, and his attitude. That works for this book, because it’s voice and hero-driven. Whether or not the line or the story comes first, I can’t tell you!

Anne here.

Perfect WaltzOccasionally a first line will just come and spark the rest of the scene and story. That's a blessing when it happens, and at times it feels as though the story almost writes itself. But my opening lines rarely come easily. I'm usually too busy trying to strike the right note for the first scene, to get the angle right so the story takes off. I'll often write several first scenes, and even then I'll often go back and write a different beginning or tweak the original one once I've got a fair bit of the story written, and know who my characters are and where the story is going and know what I want the beginning to set up.

As well, I often have a prologue and the tone of that is usually darker and quite different from the opening of the actual story. The prologue is often an incident that takes place before the main story, and sparks the story — the "call to reluctant adventure" so to speak.

For instance the prologue of The Perfect Waltz begins with an incident that convinces the hero that he needs a wife to handle his difficult little sisters.
His little sister was about to plummett to her death on the cold gray cobblestones at his feet!

But chapter one starts:.
"But she's got no bosoms! You can't marry a woman with no bosoms."

6448972And when I wrote To Catch A Bride, which was set largely in Regency-era Egypt, my editor was worried about the setting and wanted me to start the story in England. (They also used a bland, generic cover for the same reason, so it wouldn't signal "Egypt".)

So the prologue opens with:
A whip cracked, shattering the stillness of the icy landscape.

But chapter one begins:
There he is, the man I told you of," Ali said, pointing with a small grubby finger. "They say his name is Rameses. They say he has come from England to buy a girl and he will pay in gold."

Andrea here.

I love a memorable first sentence (I’ll allow artistic license to stretch it to two) . . . one of my all time favorites is Deanna Raybourn’s, from her first book, Silent in the Grave: “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is nor entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching on the floor . . .”

Alas, I don’t seem to be nearly that clever. My first sentences usually seek to set an ambiance—I seem to be drawn into creating an atmosphere with that first sentence, especially in my mysteries, rather than having one of the protagonists grab the reader. Part of it has to do with the fact that I usually start with a prologue, which creates the murder (or crime) that starts the characters on their journey.

ThumbnailFor example, here’s the opening line of the prologue from Murder on Black Swan Lane: "A flicker of weak light skittered over the stone floor, followed by the soft scrape of steps and the whispered whoosh, whoosh of mist-dampened wool . . .” Chapter One begins: "A plume of steam rose from the bubbling crucible, the curl of silvery vapor floating ghost-like against the shadowed wood paneling before dissolving into the darkness. After consulting his pocket watch, the Earl of Wrexford scribbled a few more notations in his ledger, the scratch of his pen punctuated by the soft pop, pop, pop of colorless chemicals . . .”

I wish I could do a drop-dead opening line, but my writing brain seems to see a book start in a quieter way. But then, my current WIP (the fourth Wrexford and Sloane mystery) begins with a very simple opening line: “Halloo?”

 

85 thoughts on “Ask A Wench: First Sentences”

  1. It is a seductive idea. The opening line that acts like a doorway, capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into a book. However, as a critical reader looking for something special from an ocean of talented authors, I need much more than an opening line. As several wenches comment, an opening scene, especially for a mystery or crime novel, is far more effective. I’m a fan of the short prologue which sets the scene and gives a taste of the feast to come. Having said that, I have bought several books after liking the opening scene only to find the ‘feast’ indigestible or bland, so the opening scene theory is not infallible either! If anyone discovers a reliable way of selecting a good book by using only a small sample, then many readers will be eternally grateful. In the meantime I tend to rely on the advice of a trusted critic …. I used to follow Janga’s recommendations closely. So for me another lovely theory bites the dust … sorry Susanna
    PS For an audio book I find that the opening words of a sample can act as a filter. You either like or dislike the narrator immediately. But that’s not under the control of the author!

    Reply
  2. It is a seductive idea. The opening line that acts like a doorway, capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into a book. However, as a critical reader looking for something special from an ocean of talented authors, I need much more than an opening line. As several wenches comment, an opening scene, especially for a mystery or crime novel, is far more effective. I’m a fan of the short prologue which sets the scene and gives a taste of the feast to come. Having said that, I have bought several books after liking the opening scene only to find the ‘feast’ indigestible or bland, so the opening scene theory is not infallible either! If anyone discovers a reliable way of selecting a good book by using only a small sample, then many readers will be eternally grateful. In the meantime I tend to rely on the advice of a trusted critic …. I used to follow Janga’s recommendations closely. So for me another lovely theory bites the dust … sorry Susanna
    PS For an audio book I find that the opening words of a sample can act as a filter. You either like or dislike the narrator immediately. But that’s not under the control of the author!

    Reply
  3. It is a seductive idea. The opening line that acts like a doorway, capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into a book. However, as a critical reader looking for something special from an ocean of talented authors, I need much more than an opening line. As several wenches comment, an opening scene, especially for a mystery or crime novel, is far more effective. I’m a fan of the short prologue which sets the scene and gives a taste of the feast to come. Having said that, I have bought several books after liking the opening scene only to find the ‘feast’ indigestible or bland, so the opening scene theory is not infallible either! If anyone discovers a reliable way of selecting a good book by using only a small sample, then many readers will be eternally grateful. In the meantime I tend to rely on the advice of a trusted critic …. I used to follow Janga’s recommendations closely. So for me another lovely theory bites the dust … sorry Susanna
    PS For an audio book I find that the opening words of a sample can act as a filter. You either like or dislike the narrator immediately. But that’s not under the control of the author!

    Reply
  4. It is a seductive idea. The opening line that acts like a doorway, capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into a book. However, as a critical reader looking for something special from an ocean of talented authors, I need much more than an opening line. As several wenches comment, an opening scene, especially for a mystery or crime novel, is far more effective. I’m a fan of the short prologue which sets the scene and gives a taste of the feast to come. Having said that, I have bought several books after liking the opening scene only to find the ‘feast’ indigestible or bland, so the opening scene theory is not infallible either! If anyone discovers a reliable way of selecting a good book by using only a small sample, then many readers will be eternally grateful. In the meantime I tend to rely on the advice of a trusted critic …. I used to follow Janga’s recommendations closely. So for me another lovely theory bites the dust … sorry Susanna
    PS For an audio book I find that the opening words of a sample can act as a filter. You either like or dislike the narrator immediately. But that’s not under the control of the author!

    Reply
  5. It is a seductive idea. The opening line that acts like a doorway, capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into a book. However, as a critical reader looking for something special from an ocean of talented authors, I need much more than an opening line. As several wenches comment, an opening scene, especially for a mystery or crime novel, is far more effective. I’m a fan of the short prologue which sets the scene and gives a taste of the feast to come. Having said that, I have bought several books after liking the opening scene only to find the ‘feast’ indigestible or bland, so the opening scene theory is not infallible either! If anyone discovers a reliable way of selecting a good book by using only a small sample, then many readers will be eternally grateful. In the meantime I tend to rely on the advice of a trusted critic …. I used to follow Janga’s recommendations closely. So for me another lovely theory bites the dust … sorry Susanna
    PS For an audio book I find that the opening words of a sample can act as a filter. You either like or dislike the narrator immediately. But that’s not under the control of the author!

    Reply
  6. I love the feeling I get when I read the opening of a book and think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”
    It’s not just that the sentence—or paragraph—is a grabber. That could be something like “‘Damn,’ said the duchess as she puffed on a black cigar.” (I read something once proposing that as an ideal opening—profanity, aristocracy, and the unexpected.)
    To be really effective, the sentence has to give you the flavor of the book. That means that the perfect opening for a book is never going to be perfect for all readers.

    Reply
  7. I love the feeling I get when I read the opening of a book and think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”
    It’s not just that the sentence—or paragraph—is a grabber. That could be something like “‘Damn,’ said the duchess as she puffed on a black cigar.” (I read something once proposing that as an ideal opening—profanity, aristocracy, and the unexpected.)
    To be really effective, the sentence has to give you the flavor of the book. That means that the perfect opening for a book is never going to be perfect for all readers.

    Reply
  8. I love the feeling I get when I read the opening of a book and think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”
    It’s not just that the sentence—or paragraph—is a grabber. That could be something like “‘Damn,’ said the duchess as she puffed on a black cigar.” (I read something once proposing that as an ideal opening—profanity, aristocracy, and the unexpected.)
    To be really effective, the sentence has to give you the flavor of the book. That means that the perfect opening for a book is never going to be perfect for all readers.

    Reply
  9. I love the feeling I get when I read the opening of a book and think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”
    It’s not just that the sentence—or paragraph—is a grabber. That could be something like “‘Damn,’ said the duchess as she puffed on a black cigar.” (I read something once proposing that as an ideal opening—profanity, aristocracy, and the unexpected.)
    To be really effective, the sentence has to give you the flavor of the book. That means that the perfect opening for a book is never going to be perfect for all readers.

    Reply
  10. I love the feeling I get when I read the opening of a book and think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”
    It’s not just that the sentence—or paragraph—is a grabber. That could be something like “‘Damn,’ said the duchess as she puffed on a black cigar.” (I read something once proposing that as an ideal opening—profanity, aristocracy, and the unexpected.)
    To be really effective, the sentence has to give you the flavor of the book. That means that the perfect opening for a book is never going to be perfect for all readers.

    Reply
  11. I’m always seduced by first pages vs first sentences. Maybe because I tend to zoom past that first line? Then by the fourth line (or six or tenth) I back track to the first and start again if captivated. This post made me realize I’ve done this my whole life.
    One of my fav books in college starts: “Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on washday.” Last sentence on page is dialogue: “ ‘Here I am, a stranger to your honored family, knee deep in your smallclothes.’ ” From “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald. And when I was little I adored (books for horse crazy girls like me by) Marguerite Henry. Like “Gaudenzia”, which starts: “In a hill town of Italy, close by the Tyrrhenian Sea, lives the boy, Giorgio Terni.” And last on the first page is: “In the rest of Italy….They have heard that only work horses and bullocks are reared there, and the people who survive the fever-laden mosquitoes are wild as the sea that goes to meet the sky.”
    I couldn’t tell you why those specific beginnnngs get me but I first read those books decades ago, at age ten or twenty, a different me than I’m now and even today I’m still enthralled by those six or seven first sentences of those books. I want to go explore that world of arriving at a wealthy estate on washday when washday was three times a year and you yourself have 89 shirts, no more. And I want to meet Giorgio Terni and travel through that wild land.
    Perhaps some readers may be like me. Short of patience! 🙂 At the start we fly past the first sentence but will slow, pull up and retrace if that first page is captivating!
    And Susanna… “The Rose Garden” is a favorite of mine. That first sentence and first page grabs me every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. I’m always seduced by first pages vs first sentences. Maybe because I tend to zoom past that first line? Then by the fourth line (or six or tenth) I back track to the first and start again if captivated. This post made me realize I’ve done this my whole life.
    One of my fav books in college starts: “Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on washday.” Last sentence on page is dialogue: “ ‘Here I am, a stranger to your honored family, knee deep in your smallclothes.’ ” From “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald. And when I was little I adored (books for horse crazy girls like me by) Marguerite Henry. Like “Gaudenzia”, which starts: “In a hill town of Italy, close by the Tyrrhenian Sea, lives the boy, Giorgio Terni.” And last on the first page is: “In the rest of Italy….They have heard that only work horses and bullocks are reared there, and the people who survive the fever-laden mosquitoes are wild as the sea that goes to meet the sky.”
    I couldn’t tell you why those specific beginnnngs get me but I first read those books decades ago, at age ten or twenty, a different me than I’m now and even today I’m still enthralled by those six or seven first sentences of those books. I want to go explore that world of arriving at a wealthy estate on washday when washday was three times a year and you yourself have 89 shirts, no more. And I want to meet Giorgio Terni and travel through that wild land.
    Perhaps some readers may be like me. Short of patience! 🙂 At the start we fly past the first sentence but will slow, pull up and retrace if that first page is captivating!
    And Susanna… “The Rose Garden” is a favorite of mine. That first sentence and first page grabs me every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  13. I’m always seduced by first pages vs first sentences. Maybe because I tend to zoom past that first line? Then by the fourth line (or six or tenth) I back track to the first and start again if captivated. This post made me realize I’ve done this my whole life.
    One of my fav books in college starts: “Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on washday.” Last sentence on page is dialogue: “ ‘Here I am, a stranger to your honored family, knee deep in your smallclothes.’ ” From “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald. And when I was little I adored (books for horse crazy girls like me by) Marguerite Henry. Like “Gaudenzia”, which starts: “In a hill town of Italy, close by the Tyrrhenian Sea, lives the boy, Giorgio Terni.” And last on the first page is: “In the rest of Italy….They have heard that only work horses and bullocks are reared there, and the people who survive the fever-laden mosquitoes are wild as the sea that goes to meet the sky.”
    I couldn’t tell you why those specific beginnnngs get me but I first read those books decades ago, at age ten or twenty, a different me than I’m now and even today I’m still enthralled by those six or seven first sentences of those books. I want to go explore that world of arriving at a wealthy estate on washday when washday was three times a year and you yourself have 89 shirts, no more. And I want to meet Giorgio Terni and travel through that wild land.
    Perhaps some readers may be like me. Short of patience! 🙂 At the start we fly past the first sentence but will slow, pull up and retrace if that first page is captivating!
    And Susanna… “The Rose Garden” is a favorite of mine. That first sentence and first page grabs me every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  14. I’m always seduced by first pages vs first sentences. Maybe because I tend to zoom past that first line? Then by the fourth line (or six or tenth) I back track to the first and start again if captivated. This post made me realize I’ve done this my whole life.
    One of my fav books in college starts: “Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on washday.” Last sentence on page is dialogue: “ ‘Here I am, a stranger to your honored family, knee deep in your smallclothes.’ ” From “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald. And when I was little I adored (books for horse crazy girls like me by) Marguerite Henry. Like “Gaudenzia”, which starts: “In a hill town of Italy, close by the Tyrrhenian Sea, lives the boy, Giorgio Terni.” And last on the first page is: “In the rest of Italy….They have heard that only work horses and bullocks are reared there, and the people who survive the fever-laden mosquitoes are wild as the sea that goes to meet the sky.”
    I couldn’t tell you why those specific beginnnngs get me but I first read those books decades ago, at age ten or twenty, a different me than I’m now and even today I’m still enthralled by those six or seven first sentences of those books. I want to go explore that world of arriving at a wealthy estate on washday when washday was three times a year and you yourself have 89 shirts, no more. And I want to meet Giorgio Terni and travel through that wild land.
    Perhaps some readers may be like me. Short of patience! 🙂 At the start we fly past the first sentence but will slow, pull up and retrace if that first page is captivating!
    And Susanna… “The Rose Garden” is a favorite of mine. That first sentence and first page grabs me every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  15. I’m always seduced by first pages vs first sentences. Maybe because I tend to zoom past that first line? Then by the fourth line (or six or tenth) I back track to the first and start again if captivated. This post made me realize I’ve done this my whole life.
    One of my fav books in college starts: “Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend’s home on washday.” Last sentence on page is dialogue: “ ‘Here I am, a stranger to your honored family, knee deep in your smallclothes.’ ” From “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald. And when I was little I adored (books for horse crazy girls like me by) Marguerite Henry. Like “Gaudenzia”, which starts: “In a hill town of Italy, close by the Tyrrhenian Sea, lives the boy, Giorgio Terni.” And last on the first page is: “In the rest of Italy….They have heard that only work horses and bullocks are reared there, and the people who survive the fever-laden mosquitoes are wild as the sea that goes to meet the sky.”
    I couldn’t tell you why those specific beginnnngs get me but I first read those books decades ago, at age ten or twenty, a different me than I’m now and even today I’m still enthralled by those six or seven first sentences of those books. I want to go explore that world of arriving at a wealthy estate on washday when washday was three times a year and you yourself have 89 shirts, no more. And I want to meet Giorgio Terni and travel through that wild land.
    Perhaps some readers may be like me. Short of patience! 🙂 At the start we fly past the first sentence but will slow, pull up and retrace if that first page is captivating!
    And Susanna… “The Rose Garden” is a favorite of mine. That first sentence and first page grabs me every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Hmm…interesting question. I don’t remember a single first line off the top of my head. Though when Mary Jo mentioned her first line (He was going to be hanged on Tuesday) I remembered that story. Also remembered Joanna’s 2 first lines after she wrote them.
    The first lines/scenes don’t have to grab me. The “voice of the story” is what sells it for me. Forward action of some sort needs to be taking place, not just mutterings in someone’s brain. If it is something that is just inside the brain it needs to seem like a real conversation, an active thing. Not a whiny nonproductive ramble of words.
    I’ve never written fiction, just non-fiction columns and articles. Totally agree about the trouble a first line gives the author. Occasionally the first line/paragraph presents itself with no trouble. But usually it doesn’t, so after struggling a bit, I just start typing and then go back and write a first line or two.
    Endings are troublesome also when writing non-fiction. How do you wrap it up and tie back to your beginning. At least a book only has one opening line/scene and one ending. Writing columns/articles you’ve got to deal with those two things all the time which becomes rather exhausting. Though writing an entire book coherently is probably more exhausting than writing a series of articles.

    Reply
  17. Hmm…interesting question. I don’t remember a single first line off the top of my head. Though when Mary Jo mentioned her first line (He was going to be hanged on Tuesday) I remembered that story. Also remembered Joanna’s 2 first lines after she wrote them.
    The first lines/scenes don’t have to grab me. The “voice of the story” is what sells it for me. Forward action of some sort needs to be taking place, not just mutterings in someone’s brain. If it is something that is just inside the brain it needs to seem like a real conversation, an active thing. Not a whiny nonproductive ramble of words.
    I’ve never written fiction, just non-fiction columns and articles. Totally agree about the trouble a first line gives the author. Occasionally the first line/paragraph presents itself with no trouble. But usually it doesn’t, so after struggling a bit, I just start typing and then go back and write a first line or two.
    Endings are troublesome also when writing non-fiction. How do you wrap it up and tie back to your beginning. At least a book only has one opening line/scene and one ending. Writing columns/articles you’ve got to deal with those two things all the time which becomes rather exhausting. Though writing an entire book coherently is probably more exhausting than writing a series of articles.

    Reply
  18. Hmm…interesting question. I don’t remember a single first line off the top of my head. Though when Mary Jo mentioned her first line (He was going to be hanged on Tuesday) I remembered that story. Also remembered Joanna’s 2 first lines after she wrote them.
    The first lines/scenes don’t have to grab me. The “voice of the story” is what sells it for me. Forward action of some sort needs to be taking place, not just mutterings in someone’s brain. If it is something that is just inside the brain it needs to seem like a real conversation, an active thing. Not a whiny nonproductive ramble of words.
    I’ve never written fiction, just non-fiction columns and articles. Totally agree about the trouble a first line gives the author. Occasionally the first line/paragraph presents itself with no trouble. But usually it doesn’t, so after struggling a bit, I just start typing and then go back and write a first line or two.
    Endings are troublesome also when writing non-fiction. How do you wrap it up and tie back to your beginning. At least a book only has one opening line/scene and one ending. Writing columns/articles you’ve got to deal with those two things all the time which becomes rather exhausting. Though writing an entire book coherently is probably more exhausting than writing a series of articles.

    Reply
  19. Hmm…interesting question. I don’t remember a single first line off the top of my head. Though when Mary Jo mentioned her first line (He was going to be hanged on Tuesday) I remembered that story. Also remembered Joanna’s 2 first lines after she wrote them.
    The first lines/scenes don’t have to grab me. The “voice of the story” is what sells it for me. Forward action of some sort needs to be taking place, not just mutterings in someone’s brain. If it is something that is just inside the brain it needs to seem like a real conversation, an active thing. Not a whiny nonproductive ramble of words.
    I’ve never written fiction, just non-fiction columns and articles. Totally agree about the trouble a first line gives the author. Occasionally the first line/paragraph presents itself with no trouble. But usually it doesn’t, so after struggling a bit, I just start typing and then go back and write a first line or two.
    Endings are troublesome also when writing non-fiction. How do you wrap it up and tie back to your beginning. At least a book only has one opening line/scene and one ending. Writing columns/articles you’ve got to deal with those two things all the time which becomes rather exhausting. Though writing an entire book coherently is probably more exhausting than writing a series of articles.

    Reply
  20. Hmm…interesting question. I don’t remember a single first line off the top of my head. Though when Mary Jo mentioned her first line (He was going to be hanged on Tuesday) I remembered that story. Also remembered Joanna’s 2 first lines after she wrote them.
    The first lines/scenes don’t have to grab me. The “voice of the story” is what sells it for me. Forward action of some sort needs to be taking place, not just mutterings in someone’s brain. If it is something that is just inside the brain it needs to seem like a real conversation, an active thing. Not a whiny nonproductive ramble of words.
    I’ve never written fiction, just non-fiction columns and articles. Totally agree about the trouble a first line gives the author. Occasionally the first line/paragraph presents itself with no trouble. But usually it doesn’t, so after struggling a bit, I just start typing and then go back and write a first line or two.
    Endings are troublesome also when writing non-fiction. How do you wrap it up and tie back to your beginning. At least a book only has one opening line/scene and one ending. Writing columns/articles you’ve got to deal with those two things all the time which becomes rather exhausting. Though writing an entire book coherently is probably more exhausting than writing a series of articles.

    Reply
  21. Susanna, I love that opening line from Donna Thorland that you quoted! Wonderful.
    But while a great first line is a treat, it takes more the hook me. A first paragraph. A first page. And Quantum, a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there. “Voice” is so important. There are perfectly fine books that don’t speak to me. And there are some authors I’ll forgive anything because I love their voices so much.

    Reply
  22. Susanna, I love that opening line from Donna Thorland that you quoted! Wonderful.
    But while a great first line is a treat, it takes more the hook me. A first paragraph. A first page. And Quantum, a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there. “Voice” is so important. There are perfectly fine books that don’t speak to me. And there are some authors I’ll forgive anything because I love their voices so much.

    Reply
  23. Susanna, I love that opening line from Donna Thorland that you quoted! Wonderful.
    But while a great first line is a treat, it takes more the hook me. A first paragraph. A first page. And Quantum, a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there. “Voice” is so important. There are perfectly fine books that don’t speak to me. And there are some authors I’ll forgive anything because I love their voices so much.

    Reply
  24. Susanna, I love that opening line from Donna Thorland that you quoted! Wonderful.
    But while a great first line is a treat, it takes more the hook me. A first paragraph. A first page. And Quantum, a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there. “Voice” is so important. There are perfectly fine books that don’t speak to me. And there are some authors I’ll forgive anything because I love their voices so much.

    Reply
  25. Susanna, I love that opening line from Donna Thorland that you quoted! Wonderful.
    But while a great first line is a treat, it takes more the hook me. A first paragraph. A first page. And Quantum, a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there. “Voice” is so important. There are perfectly fine books that don’t speak to me. And there are some authors I’ll forgive anything because I love their voices so much.

    Reply
  26. I don’t put all that much stock in first lines or first paragraphs. For me (as others have mentioned) it’s more about first pages and even first chapters.
    But AFTER reading I do, sometimes, remember first lines. And especially clever ones. I’m told beginning writers are told “don’t be trite; don’t open with a line like ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ because it’s over used.
    We have all read and laughed at the very clever defiances of that dictum. That is what I truly like; the author is sharing a joke, or a moment, or an emotion with me. And, as I said above, that may take more than a line or a paragraph.

    Reply
  27. I don’t put all that much stock in first lines or first paragraphs. For me (as others have mentioned) it’s more about first pages and even first chapters.
    But AFTER reading I do, sometimes, remember first lines. And especially clever ones. I’m told beginning writers are told “don’t be trite; don’t open with a line like ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ because it’s over used.
    We have all read and laughed at the very clever defiances of that dictum. That is what I truly like; the author is sharing a joke, or a moment, or an emotion with me. And, as I said above, that may take more than a line or a paragraph.

    Reply
  28. I don’t put all that much stock in first lines or first paragraphs. For me (as others have mentioned) it’s more about first pages and even first chapters.
    But AFTER reading I do, sometimes, remember first lines. And especially clever ones. I’m told beginning writers are told “don’t be trite; don’t open with a line like ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ because it’s over used.
    We have all read and laughed at the very clever defiances of that dictum. That is what I truly like; the author is sharing a joke, or a moment, or an emotion with me. And, as I said above, that may take more than a line or a paragraph.

    Reply
  29. I don’t put all that much stock in first lines or first paragraphs. For me (as others have mentioned) it’s more about first pages and even first chapters.
    But AFTER reading I do, sometimes, remember first lines. And especially clever ones. I’m told beginning writers are told “don’t be trite; don’t open with a line like ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ because it’s over used.
    We have all read and laughed at the very clever defiances of that dictum. That is what I truly like; the author is sharing a joke, or a moment, or an emotion with me. And, as I said above, that may take more than a line or a paragraph.

    Reply
  30. I don’t put all that much stock in first lines or first paragraphs. For me (as others have mentioned) it’s more about first pages and even first chapters.
    But AFTER reading I do, sometimes, remember first lines. And especially clever ones. I’m told beginning writers are told “don’t be trite; don’t open with a line like ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ because it’s over used.
    We have all read and laughed at the very clever defiances of that dictum. That is what I truly like; the author is sharing a joke, or a moment, or an emotion with me. And, as I said above, that may take more than a line or a paragraph.

    Reply
  31. I miss Janga, and her recommendations, too, Quantum.
    In the early days of submitting manuscripts to publishers, a lot of aspiring authors used to polish their openings like mad, because editors wanted to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some people got into the habit of writing *only* the first three chapters, and then waiting hopefully for a yea or a nay, and by the time they did get a yea, they suddenly had to learn how to write middles and endings. I suspect some people still put a disproportionate effort into polishing their opening pages.

    Reply
  32. I miss Janga, and her recommendations, too, Quantum.
    In the early days of submitting manuscripts to publishers, a lot of aspiring authors used to polish their openings like mad, because editors wanted to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some people got into the habit of writing *only* the first three chapters, and then waiting hopefully for a yea or a nay, and by the time they did get a yea, they suddenly had to learn how to write middles and endings. I suspect some people still put a disproportionate effort into polishing their opening pages.

    Reply
  33. I miss Janga, and her recommendations, too, Quantum.
    In the early days of submitting manuscripts to publishers, a lot of aspiring authors used to polish their openings like mad, because editors wanted to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some people got into the habit of writing *only* the first three chapters, and then waiting hopefully for a yea or a nay, and by the time they did get a yea, they suddenly had to learn how to write middles and endings. I suspect some people still put a disproportionate effort into polishing their opening pages.

    Reply
  34. I miss Janga, and her recommendations, too, Quantum.
    In the early days of submitting manuscripts to publishers, a lot of aspiring authors used to polish their openings like mad, because editors wanted to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some people got into the habit of writing *only* the first three chapters, and then waiting hopefully for a yea or a nay, and by the time they did get a yea, they suddenly had to learn how to write middles and endings. I suspect some people still put a disproportionate effort into polishing their opening pages.

    Reply
  35. I miss Janga, and her recommendations, too, Quantum.
    In the early days of submitting manuscripts to publishers, a lot of aspiring authors used to polish their openings like mad, because editors wanted to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some people got into the habit of writing *only* the first three chapters, and then waiting hopefully for a yea or a nay, and by the time they did get a yea, they suddenly had to learn how to write middles and endings. I suspect some people still put a disproportionate effort into polishing their opening pages.

    Reply
  36. Lillian, you have no idea how tempting your cigar-puffing duchess is.
    But you’ve nailed it exactly, I think. I love the kind of opening where you think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”

    Reply
  37. Lillian, you have no idea how tempting your cigar-puffing duchess is.
    But you’ve nailed it exactly, I think. I love the kind of opening where you think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”

    Reply
  38. Lillian, you have no idea how tempting your cigar-puffing duchess is.
    But you’ve nailed it exactly, I think. I love the kind of opening where you think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”

    Reply
  39. Lillian, you have no idea how tempting your cigar-puffing duchess is.
    But you’ve nailed it exactly, I think. I love the kind of opening where you think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”

    Reply
  40. Lillian, you have no idea how tempting your cigar-puffing duchess is.
    But you’ve nailed it exactly, I think. I love the kind of opening where you think, “Oh yes! I’m going to enjoy this!”

    Reply
  41. And of course, there’s one of the best known opening lines of all time — Jane Austen’s “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Reply
  42. And of course, there’s one of the best known opening lines of all time — Jane Austen’s “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Reply
  43. And of course, there’s one of the best known opening lines of all time — Jane Austen’s “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Reply
  44. And of course, there’s one of the best known opening lines of all time — Jane Austen’s “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Reply
  45. And of course, there’s one of the best known opening lines of all time — Jane Austen’s “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Reply
  46. “a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there”
    Yes, that can work when the voice resonates. When it does you find a new auto-buy author. I agree that the voice is really important. Some authors could describe a telephone directory and I would buy. However those authors are a rare find, like supernova in a sparkling sky! 😊

    Reply
  47. “a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there”
    Yes, that can work when the voice resonates. When it does you find a new auto-buy author. I agree that the voice is really important. Some authors could describe a telephone directory and I would buy. However those authors are a rare find, like supernova in a sparkling sky! 😊

    Reply
  48. “a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there”
    Yes, that can work when the voice resonates. When it does you find a new auto-buy author. I agree that the voice is really important. Some authors could describe a telephone directory and I would buy. However those authors are a rare find, like supernova in a sparkling sky! 😊

    Reply
  49. “a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there”
    Yes, that can work when the voice resonates. When it does you find a new auto-buy author. I agree that the voice is really important. Some authors could describe a telephone directory and I would buy. However those authors are a rare find, like supernova in a sparkling sky! 😊

    Reply
  50. “a random flip to somewhere in the middle to see if I like what I see there”
    Yes, that can work when the voice resonates. When it does you find a new auto-buy author. I agree that the voice is really important. Some authors could describe a telephone directory and I would buy. However those authors are a rare find, like supernova in a sparkling sky! 😊

    Reply
  51. Yes, dear Janga.
    As a research scientist I would submit my work for publication in the best journals (eg Phys Rev Letts or J Appl Phys). Occasionally after peer review an article would be turned down and I would then re-submit to a lesser journal. I can only remember one paper that failed to be published and that was only because it wasn’t re-submitted due to other pressures.
    Anne, for fiction, is there a hierarchy of publishing houses that authors submit to or does an agent deal with all of that boring admin stuff … assuming that you don’t self-publish on Amazon

    Reply
  52. Yes, dear Janga.
    As a research scientist I would submit my work for publication in the best journals (eg Phys Rev Letts or J Appl Phys). Occasionally after peer review an article would be turned down and I would then re-submit to a lesser journal. I can only remember one paper that failed to be published and that was only because it wasn’t re-submitted due to other pressures.
    Anne, for fiction, is there a hierarchy of publishing houses that authors submit to or does an agent deal with all of that boring admin stuff … assuming that you don’t self-publish on Amazon

    Reply
  53. Yes, dear Janga.
    As a research scientist I would submit my work for publication in the best journals (eg Phys Rev Letts or J Appl Phys). Occasionally after peer review an article would be turned down and I would then re-submit to a lesser journal. I can only remember one paper that failed to be published and that was only because it wasn’t re-submitted due to other pressures.
    Anne, for fiction, is there a hierarchy of publishing houses that authors submit to or does an agent deal with all of that boring admin stuff … assuming that you don’t self-publish on Amazon

    Reply
  54. Yes, dear Janga.
    As a research scientist I would submit my work for publication in the best journals (eg Phys Rev Letts or J Appl Phys). Occasionally after peer review an article would be turned down and I would then re-submit to a lesser journal. I can only remember one paper that failed to be published and that was only because it wasn’t re-submitted due to other pressures.
    Anne, for fiction, is there a hierarchy of publishing houses that authors submit to or does an agent deal with all of that boring admin stuff … assuming that you don’t self-publish on Amazon

    Reply
  55. Yes, dear Janga.
    As a research scientist I would submit my work for publication in the best journals (eg Phys Rev Letts or J Appl Phys). Occasionally after peer review an article would be turned down and I would then re-submit to a lesser journal. I can only remember one paper that failed to be published and that was only because it wasn’t re-submitted due to other pressures.
    Anne, for fiction, is there a hierarchy of publishing houses that authors submit to or does an agent deal with all of that boring admin stuff … assuming that you don’t self-publish on Amazon

    Reply
  56. I don’t think I go so much for the first sentence, but I’m sure it gets me. I like a good opening chapter which gets to the idea of what is to come and keeps me reading way beyond the time I have to do so.
    Now I will go to the books on my shelf and find those hard worked on first sentences and appreciate them even more. I may just go to the library and find some good sentences – that should be fun.

    Reply
  57. I don’t think I go so much for the first sentence, but I’m sure it gets me. I like a good opening chapter which gets to the idea of what is to come and keeps me reading way beyond the time I have to do so.
    Now I will go to the books on my shelf and find those hard worked on first sentences and appreciate them even more. I may just go to the library and find some good sentences – that should be fun.

    Reply
  58. I don’t think I go so much for the first sentence, but I’m sure it gets me. I like a good opening chapter which gets to the idea of what is to come and keeps me reading way beyond the time I have to do so.
    Now I will go to the books on my shelf and find those hard worked on first sentences and appreciate them even more. I may just go to the library and find some good sentences – that should be fun.

    Reply
  59. I don’t think I go so much for the first sentence, but I’m sure it gets me. I like a good opening chapter which gets to the idea of what is to come and keeps me reading way beyond the time I have to do so.
    Now I will go to the books on my shelf and find those hard worked on first sentences and appreciate them even more. I may just go to the library and find some good sentences – that should be fun.

    Reply
  60. I don’t think I go so much for the first sentence, but I’m sure it gets me. I like a good opening chapter which gets to the idea of what is to come and keeps me reading way beyond the time I have to do so.
    Now I will go to the books on my shelf and find those hard worked on first sentences and appreciate them even more. I may just go to the library and find some good sentences – that should be fun.

    Reply
  61. I ADORE that first line from The Rebel Pirate, and I too was hooked as soon as I read it. It’s great when the first line of a book really grabs me, and sets the tone immediately.
    Here’s the first line of “After the Scandal” by Elizabeth Essex “Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never be truly satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square.”
    And this the first line of “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  62. I ADORE that first line from The Rebel Pirate, and I too was hooked as soon as I read it. It’s great when the first line of a book really grabs me, and sets the tone immediately.
    Here’s the first line of “After the Scandal” by Elizabeth Essex “Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never be truly satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square.”
    And this the first line of “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  63. I ADORE that first line from The Rebel Pirate, and I too was hooked as soon as I read it. It’s great when the first line of a book really grabs me, and sets the tone immediately.
    Here’s the first line of “After the Scandal” by Elizabeth Essex “Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never be truly satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square.”
    And this the first line of “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  64. I ADORE that first line from The Rebel Pirate, and I too was hooked as soon as I read it. It’s great when the first line of a book really grabs me, and sets the tone immediately.
    Here’s the first line of “After the Scandal” by Elizabeth Essex “Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never be truly satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square.”
    And this the first line of “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  65. I ADORE that first line from The Rebel Pirate, and I too was hooked as soon as I read it. It’s great when the first line of a book really grabs me, and sets the tone immediately.
    Here’s the first line of “After the Scandal” by Elizabeth Essex “Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never be truly satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square.”
    And this the first line of “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  66. I do appreciate a good first line, but I can’t remember it ever determining if I would truly enjoy the book or not. And thinking on it, I really cannot remember the first like of most of my favorite books. I think with me, it is the quality of the characters that keep me reading.

    Reply
  67. I do appreciate a good first line, but I can’t remember it ever determining if I would truly enjoy the book or not. And thinking on it, I really cannot remember the first like of most of my favorite books. I think with me, it is the quality of the characters that keep me reading.

    Reply
  68. I do appreciate a good first line, but I can’t remember it ever determining if I would truly enjoy the book or not. And thinking on it, I really cannot remember the first like of most of my favorite books. I think with me, it is the quality of the characters that keep me reading.

    Reply
  69. I do appreciate a good first line, but I can’t remember it ever determining if I would truly enjoy the book or not. And thinking on it, I really cannot remember the first like of most of my favorite books. I think with me, it is the quality of the characters that keep me reading.

    Reply
  70. I do appreciate a good first line, but I can’t remember it ever determining if I would truly enjoy the book or not. And thinking on it, I really cannot remember the first like of most of my favorite books. I think with me, it is the quality of the characters that keep me reading.

    Reply
  71. Quantum, I do think there is something of a hierarchy of publishing houses — at least that’s what one top author told me a few years ago. But it’s not a hard-and-fast ranking — it very much depends on what kind of fiction you’re wanting to sell, so the “top” publisher for one person might not be the same for a different writer writing in a different subgenre. Or a writer at a different stage in her career.
    That said, for most authors it depends on what a publishing house is offering. When I started, I knew very little about the various publishers and which one would be best to target, and so I signed up a New York agent (because I wanted a US publisher) for her expertise and knowledge.

    Reply
  72. Quantum, I do think there is something of a hierarchy of publishing houses — at least that’s what one top author told me a few years ago. But it’s not a hard-and-fast ranking — it very much depends on what kind of fiction you’re wanting to sell, so the “top” publisher for one person might not be the same for a different writer writing in a different subgenre. Or a writer at a different stage in her career.
    That said, for most authors it depends on what a publishing house is offering. When I started, I knew very little about the various publishers and which one would be best to target, and so I signed up a New York agent (because I wanted a US publisher) for her expertise and knowledge.

    Reply
  73. Quantum, I do think there is something of a hierarchy of publishing houses — at least that’s what one top author told me a few years ago. But it’s not a hard-and-fast ranking — it very much depends on what kind of fiction you’re wanting to sell, so the “top” publisher for one person might not be the same for a different writer writing in a different subgenre. Or a writer at a different stage in her career.
    That said, for most authors it depends on what a publishing house is offering. When I started, I knew very little about the various publishers and which one would be best to target, and so I signed up a New York agent (because I wanted a US publisher) for her expertise and knowledge.

    Reply
  74. Quantum, I do think there is something of a hierarchy of publishing houses — at least that’s what one top author told me a few years ago. But it’s not a hard-and-fast ranking — it very much depends on what kind of fiction you’re wanting to sell, so the “top” publisher for one person might not be the same for a different writer writing in a different subgenre. Or a writer at a different stage in her career.
    That said, for most authors it depends on what a publishing house is offering. When I started, I knew very little about the various publishers and which one would be best to target, and so I signed up a New York agent (because I wanted a US publisher) for her expertise and knowledge.

    Reply
  75. Quantum, I do think there is something of a hierarchy of publishing houses — at least that’s what one top author told me a few years ago. But it’s not a hard-and-fast ranking — it very much depends on what kind of fiction you’re wanting to sell, so the “top” publisher for one person might not be the same for a different writer writing in a different subgenre. Or a writer at a different stage in her career.
    That said, for most authors it depends on what a publishing house is offering. When I started, I knew very little about the various publishers and which one would be best to target, and so I signed up a New York agent (because I wanted a US publisher) for her expertise and knowledge.

    Reply
  76. I admire so many authors in such a devoted way that to even suggest I pick up a book of theirs based on a first sentence seems nearly sacrilegious. When I treat myself to a new book by a fave author I’m going settle myself in for a great story no matter whether the first sentence grabs me or not…merely assuming it’s all part of the plan and I’ll ‘get it’ if it was rather mysterious, or extra yummy if it was a real emotion grabber.
    That said, I know someone judges these things. And authors must keep finding new readers. The concept of the opening sentence making or breaking a book’s success, we may actually have Jane Austen to blame, (Anne Gracie.) Well, for people who still prefer printed paper books and purchase them from a physical bookseller, they do have the ability to open the book and read the first sentence to judge. Whereas I’ve been reading on one or more digital devices for at least 8 years now. (Thank God for font enlargement.) I have to ask: In these times, who is that first sentence most important to? A prospective publisher? Or the reader. At any rate, I have some wonderful looking titles to add to my wish list from the comments above!
    Like Quantum said above, I rely on reviews and favorite reviewers (I hadn’t realized Janga was no longer with us!) Sometimes all of these things lets us down, but not often.
    Thank you so much for this great post Suzanna.

    Reply
  77. I admire so many authors in such a devoted way that to even suggest I pick up a book of theirs based on a first sentence seems nearly sacrilegious. When I treat myself to a new book by a fave author I’m going settle myself in for a great story no matter whether the first sentence grabs me or not…merely assuming it’s all part of the plan and I’ll ‘get it’ if it was rather mysterious, or extra yummy if it was a real emotion grabber.
    That said, I know someone judges these things. And authors must keep finding new readers. The concept of the opening sentence making or breaking a book’s success, we may actually have Jane Austen to blame, (Anne Gracie.) Well, for people who still prefer printed paper books and purchase them from a physical bookseller, they do have the ability to open the book and read the first sentence to judge. Whereas I’ve been reading on one or more digital devices for at least 8 years now. (Thank God for font enlargement.) I have to ask: In these times, who is that first sentence most important to? A prospective publisher? Or the reader. At any rate, I have some wonderful looking titles to add to my wish list from the comments above!
    Like Quantum said above, I rely on reviews and favorite reviewers (I hadn’t realized Janga was no longer with us!) Sometimes all of these things lets us down, but not often.
    Thank you so much for this great post Suzanna.

    Reply
  78. I admire so many authors in such a devoted way that to even suggest I pick up a book of theirs based on a first sentence seems nearly sacrilegious. When I treat myself to a new book by a fave author I’m going settle myself in for a great story no matter whether the first sentence grabs me or not…merely assuming it’s all part of the plan and I’ll ‘get it’ if it was rather mysterious, or extra yummy if it was a real emotion grabber.
    That said, I know someone judges these things. And authors must keep finding new readers. The concept of the opening sentence making or breaking a book’s success, we may actually have Jane Austen to blame, (Anne Gracie.) Well, for people who still prefer printed paper books and purchase them from a physical bookseller, they do have the ability to open the book and read the first sentence to judge. Whereas I’ve been reading on one or more digital devices for at least 8 years now. (Thank God for font enlargement.) I have to ask: In these times, who is that first sentence most important to? A prospective publisher? Or the reader. At any rate, I have some wonderful looking titles to add to my wish list from the comments above!
    Like Quantum said above, I rely on reviews and favorite reviewers (I hadn’t realized Janga was no longer with us!) Sometimes all of these things lets us down, but not often.
    Thank you so much for this great post Suzanna.

    Reply
  79. I admire so many authors in such a devoted way that to even suggest I pick up a book of theirs based on a first sentence seems nearly sacrilegious. When I treat myself to a new book by a fave author I’m going settle myself in for a great story no matter whether the first sentence grabs me or not…merely assuming it’s all part of the plan and I’ll ‘get it’ if it was rather mysterious, or extra yummy if it was a real emotion grabber.
    That said, I know someone judges these things. And authors must keep finding new readers. The concept of the opening sentence making or breaking a book’s success, we may actually have Jane Austen to blame, (Anne Gracie.) Well, for people who still prefer printed paper books and purchase them from a physical bookseller, they do have the ability to open the book and read the first sentence to judge. Whereas I’ve been reading on one or more digital devices for at least 8 years now. (Thank God for font enlargement.) I have to ask: In these times, who is that first sentence most important to? A prospective publisher? Or the reader. At any rate, I have some wonderful looking titles to add to my wish list from the comments above!
    Like Quantum said above, I rely on reviews and favorite reviewers (I hadn’t realized Janga was no longer with us!) Sometimes all of these things lets us down, but not often.
    Thank you so much for this great post Suzanna.

    Reply
  80. I admire so many authors in such a devoted way that to even suggest I pick up a book of theirs based on a first sentence seems nearly sacrilegious. When I treat myself to a new book by a fave author I’m going settle myself in for a great story no matter whether the first sentence grabs me or not…merely assuming it’s all part of the plan and I’ll ‘get it’ if it was rather mysterious, or extra yummy if it was a real emotion grabber.
    That said, I know someone judges these things. And authors must keep finding new readers. The concept of the opening sentence making or breaking a book’s success, we may actually have Jane Austen to blame, (Anne Gracie.) Well, for people who still prefer printed paper books and purchase them from a physical bookseller, they do have the ability to open the book and read the first sentence to judge. Whereas I’ve been reading on one or more digital devices for at least 8 years now. (Thank God for font enlargement.) I have to ask: In these times, who is that first sentence most important to? A prospective publisher? Or the reader. At any rate, I have some wonderful looking titles to add to my wish list from the comments above!
    Like Quantum said above, I rely on reviews and favorite reviewers (I hadn’t realized Janga was no longer with us!) Sometimes all of these things lets us down, but not often.
    Thank you so much for this great post Suzanna.

    Reply
  81. I completely agree about Silent in the Grave – one of the best ever opening lines.
    Another good one from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask (plus the following sentences for best effect)
    Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
    Penitence was eighteen and carried a beaded satchel.
    The Plague travelled by fur-lined carriage and was as old as sin.

    Reply
  82. I completely agree about Silent in the Grave – one of the best ever opening lines.
    Another good one from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask (plus the following sentences for best effect)
    Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
    Penitence was eighteen and carried a beaded satchel.
    The Plague travelled by fur-lined carriage and was as old as sin.

    Reply
  83. I completely agree about Silent in the Grave – one of the best ever opening lines.
    Another good one from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask (plus the following sentences for best effect)
    Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
    Penitence was eighteen and carried a beaded satchel.
    The Plague travelled by fur-lined carriage and was as old as sin.

    Reply
  84. I completely agree about Silent in the Grave – one of the best ever opening lines.
    Another good one from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask (plus the following sentences for best effect)
    Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
    Penitence was eighteen and carried a beaded satchel.
    The Plague travelled by fur-lined carriage and was as old as sin.

    Reply
  85. I completely agree about Silent in the Grave – one of the best ever opening lines.
    Another good one from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask (plus the following sentences for best effect)
    Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
    Penitence was eighteen and carried a beaded satchel.
    The Plague travelled by fur-lined carriage and was as old as sin.

    Reply

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