F is for First Lines

10 Jun

“The sensation of writing a book is the sensation of spinning, blinded by love and daring.” – Annie Dillard

Some books suggest that your first five pages are the most important; some say the first 50 pages. If the first line doesn’t catch the reader’s eye, I doubt it matters how well you wrote the first five or 50 pages especially if your reader is an agent or an editor.

It’s a given that you have to make that first line pull the reader into the story and it probably is the most important line in your book but it doesn’t stop there. To continue to pull the reader in, you have to make sure the first line of each chapter and each scene accomplish the same thing.

A good way to study first lines is to pull one of your favorite books off the shelf and start dissecting it. What about that first line made you want to read more? Go further into the story and see how they structured the scenes and chapters. Can you see a pattern of beginning, middle, and end?

Just as you have a story arc, you should have an arc for each chapter and each scene and those arcs start out with a first line.  Don’t settle for weak first lines; make them strong enough to help carry your story.

If you’re working on your first draft, just get it written but when it comes time to edit and revise, polish those lines until they sparkle.  Make them do the job you need them to do and then go on to the second most important line – the last line of each chapter and scene. The first line gets the reader’s attention and the last line brings the reader back for more.

Hope your writing week was productive. If you write and live in the Des Moines area and would like to visit a writer’s group. Central Iowa Fiction Writers meet Saturday at 10:00 AM at the West Des Moines Community Center. Our speaker this month is Cheryl Saint John an author from the Omaha area and she is going to talk about blogging.

If you lean more toward mysteries – the local chapter of Sisters in Crime meets Saturday afternoon at Smokey Row coffee shop at 3:00. Come check us out.

Also, Larry Baker an author participating in AVID, will be at the Central Library June 18th at 7:00 PM. His current book is “Love and Other Delusions”.  AVID is a program sponsored by the Des Moines Library and each year they bring in several authors to talk and sign.

Currently reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about a woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone. This is Oprah‘s first pick for her new Book Club 2.0. I bought the e-reader edition and it is interesting to see the passages Oprah highlighted. So far it has been an enjoyable read.



Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Writing a Novel


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2 responses to “F is for First Lines

  1. Cheryl St.John

    June 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    See you soon!


    • virginiagruver

      June 12, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Really looking forward to seeing you too!



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