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Dear Editor: How Important Is My Novel’s First Line?

—(Originally Appeared in Publishers Weekly)— BookWorks founder and veteran editor, Betty Kelly Sargent, answers a reader’s question about the importance of the first line of your novel… Dear Editor: Do you think it’s essential to start a novel with a dynamite first sentence? —Mark S. Absolutely!  Your first line must entice, impress, surprise, and maybe… [Read More]

The importance of your novel's first line by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

—(Originally Appeared in Publishers Weekly)—

BookWorks founder and veteran editor, Betty Kelly Sargent, answers a reader's question about the importance of the first line of your novel...

Dear Editor:

Do you think it’s essential to start a novel with a dynamite first sentence?

—Mark S.

The importance of your novel's first line by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

Absolutely!  Your first line must entice, impress, surprise, and maybe even shock the reader. With all the competition for a reader's attention these days, it's important to try to hook your reader instantly, so spending the time it takes to craft a powerful opening sentence is well worth the effort.

"It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this," as Stephen King said in a 2013 interview.

Think of the first line as an invitation to read your story—an invitation that's hard to refuse.

Memorable First Line Examples

The importance of your novel's first line by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.comHere are a few of my favorites"

"When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist"

Circe by Madeline Miller

"My father was killed on a spring night four years ago, while I sat in a corner booth of a new bistro in Oakland"

The Other Americans by Laila LalamiThe importance of your novel's first line by Betty Kelly Sargent for BookWorks.com

"In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk"

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

Who knows, maybe you'll even get lucky and come up with something as memorable as "Call me Ishmael" or "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." 


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