How To... How to write the perfect first line...or not!

Leslie

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Yeah, I know what you mean. I have written and rewritten first sentences and still hate them. @Dawn_McClure and I have had a lot of conversations about how important they are. She is of the opinion that you have to start in the "normal world" so that means the first couple of pages are setting the stage, where I go for the BIG WHAM. Now Dawn actually has books published and sells them while I am, well, still working on that.

I can tell you as a reader that I have never stopped because the first sentence was not memorable. And I read A LOT. If I am going to pitch a book in the dustbin, it's because it gets lost about midway. The book I am reading right now is one of those, the first chapters were great but then it's wandered off, and totally lost any motivation or plot. (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1) by Becky Chambers). Fabulous premise, funny set of quirky characters and a good first chapter but man is it lagging.

I just reviewed the first line of the last three books I read. None of them were in any way memorable.

Hmmm

So IDK ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe that epic first line is really not necessary.

YMMV
 
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So why can't I write the first sentence? You know the one that takes you to the second sentence? For some reason I can write the next 3 thousand sentences but the first one sucks. What should I do? I want an amazing sentence so the reader will continue reading my almost done book.

Sue, I would tell my students not to worry about that first sentence until they finished the paper, or in this case your story. Writing is really about the rewriting, the editing that follows once the project has been completed. Too often, we get stuck on wanting to rewrite rather than adding new words and finishing! The amazing sentence will come. Be paitient. If you really want to keep trying to rewrite that first sentence, I suggest you create a space after that first sentence where you can just write new first sentences. Don't delete anything, don't edit them. Just write it, hit enter, try again. Leave them and continue writing the story. Eventually, you'll come back to your different tries and discover that first sentence is there, a mixture of different pieces and parts.
 
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Leslie

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Thanks for that, Diana! I like that method of just keep adding new first sentences that is brilliant. It let's you scratch that edit itch and not lose anything. I also wonder if it would be a log of your changing ideas about what the theme of the book is? For me, the book themes can shift as I write. So if I am 1/2 through a book and think about what the first sentence or paragraph needs to convey it can differ from what I thought when I was just starting out. @Sue McCallum nailed it on this one!
 
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