Next up we talk all about the opening lines of a novel. Arguably the most important in your entire novel, as if the reader/agent/publisher doesn’t read past those, it don’t matter how aces they rest are!
Again, before we give our best advice, here’s some other great advice from industry experts.
- The CB Creative blog has great tips from their agents on how to write a great novel opening.
- The Writers Workshop have a fab post on great opening lines.
- The Writers HQ gurus’ course on getting published has a fab section on openings and getting an agents attention with do’s and dont’s.
- The Telegraph recently did 30 great opening lines in literature. What do you think?
- Huffington Post did a great YA version of best opening lines.
- As did Barnes and Noble.
‘Standard stuff-don’t open with a description of a character, especially if they’re looking in the mirror! Don’t open with the weather either. Apparently these things are done a silly amount. Start JUST before it all kicks off. You don’t need chapters of back story. Throw your characters in at the deep end and get to know them as they muddle through!’
‘START YOUR STORY! When everything changes for your character – make sure that first inciting incident happens in the opening pages. Forward movement – if you’re not moving the story forward with your words or if they don’t matter in the present of the story, then start later.’
‘I love a great opening line, I often have a quick look in Waterstones at the bestsellers 🙂! I’d say a great opening line is one that makes an immediate connection with the reader; I don’t think it matters how, you might find something out or a question is asked or whatever but something in the first line gets you- it’s no good a paragraph or two in!’
‘The opening line can make or breaks a book. Don’t just focus on it being gripping. Someone should be able to see the whole voice of your book from the opening line.’
‘Immediate action or speech. Descriptions are too boring without any context.’
‘I always choose my book based on the opening line and whether it draws me in or not. I’m pretty sure some agents feel that way too. It’s like the moth to a flame for me. Make it snappy and memorable. If you can show something important about your protagonist, beliefs, life, problems etc, it will scene set and get the plot going, straight from the top. In a way the open is the turning point for a character as it’s where you, as a writer, have chosen to begin, so your job is to ensure that significance is revealed.’
‘A strong voice plus anything that subtly raises a question that’s intriguing enough for the reader to really need to know the answer.’
‘Something short and simple that can pull the reader in immediately! I enjoy starting right in the middle of something. That first line should introduce the voice, character, and feel for the rest of the story. Don’t get too caught up in it though, I tend to write the first line again after the novel is written, if you stress too much about it at the beginning you’ll never write another word!’
‘The first line is the heartbeat of your story; it sets the pulse for the rest of your adventure so try to take time to ensure it reflects your voice/tone (and, and where possible, your stakes).’
And finally, a wise word of caution…
‘don’t spend so long deliberating over your opening lines that you don’t get round to writing your story. Get it down. Polish everything up later. Your opening lines matter, but if you don’t ever write the rest of your story, what use are they?’