What’s the first sentence of your book?

An opportunity to engage readers with your first few words…

singledout_kindle_656x1000pxI’m preparing to publish Singled Out next weekend. It’s going to be available on Amazon (all regions) in Kindle and paperback formats from Sunday 1st February (in fact the e-book is already available on pre-order).

I confess I’m beyond excited and more than a little unsettled by the prospect of real people reading it. I wonder whether anyone beyond my circle of family, friends and writerly cohorts will get into it; further than the first line, the first paragraph, the first page… I wonder who will get right to the end, and more importantly whether they will enjoy it, find it a page-turning, satisfying read. I’m feeling a little turbulent in my gut just thinking about this now.

The first sentence they say, is critical. Mine has changed several times. Back in 2011 it was: The phone rang – an unfamiliar, old-fashioned ring-ring… ring-ring, in the darkness. It broke two sudden-death rules apparently, if you wanted to hook an agent as I did once (a glut of adjectives and a waking-up moment, in case you’re wondering), and the words rang and ring should never have been in the same line. So it had to go.

The one I settled on in the end, having decided to begin at a different point in the story, is:

He stands over her, fastening his jeans.

I don’t think my first sentence is quite up there with: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. But I hope it gets a few readers going anyway.

If you’re a writer, and I know a few of my followers are writers, I thought you might like to share a first sentence (just the one) with readers of this blog. So I’m hosting a mini promotion, in celebration, let’s say, of my own upcoming book launch.

If you’d like to participate with a book of your own (already published, through any means), just post a comment below including the first sentence and a link if you wish, to wherever your book may be found or purchased (ie, your website, Amazon, Goodreads etc). Tell us the title and genre too. I will happily include all comments unless they break the obvious rules of good taste etc.

I don’t know who will venture to respond nor what style or genre of books might reveal themselves, but it will be interesting to see what pops up. And you never know, someone might like your first sentence enough to check out what follows.

Now it’s over to you.

45 thoughts on “What’s the first sentence of your book?

  1. I love your ‘new’ first sentence; really gripping. Here’s mine:

    This morning I found a black and white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn’t look like a liar.

    OK – I cheated. It’s the first two sentences. It’s from my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, which will be published at the end of February by Fig Tree / Penguin. The genre is commercial literary fiction, and more information can be found on my website: http://www.clairefuller.co.uk

    I think this opportunity – to invite your readers to put their first lines on your post – is such a great idea that a week before my novel is published, I’ll write a post inviting reader writers to do the same, and perhaps Julie, you’d be willing to post the first sentence of Singled Out on my blog?

    Good luck with Singled Out!


    1. You got me hooked! But it was that second sentence – it needed the second sentence. I do like the sound of your book – and well done for securing that rare and elusive thing, a traditional publishing slot.

      My second sentence might add something too:

      He stands over her, fastening his jeans. Then he scans 360-degrees, checking for any disturbance – evidence of his presence.

      I’m so glad you liked my idea and I’d be more than happy to post my first (and second?) sentence on your blog when the time comes.

      1. Well, the whole thing is out there now on Amazon….. 😉😉😉 . Singled Out is having its two-week-birthday today. If you should happen to read it, I’d love to know what you think!

  2. Great idea, thank you! Here’s mine:

    A glint in the sand caught her eye and she crouched down.

    It’s from my suspense novel The Cold Cold Sea, published last August by Legend Press. The story follows a family whose child is lost on the beach. More details here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-Sea-Linda-Huber-ebook/dp/B00HWQ19YQ/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421249491&sr=1-1&keywords=the+cold+cold+sea

    Good luck with your upcoming release!

    1. That’s nice… I want to know what it was that caught her eye. And thank you – all positive vibes re my upcoming release are warmly received!

  3. This is a great idea. I don’t really have anything I can call a novel, but I have this: The match took a dive bomb though the air, met its target of two million lire stuffed in a trash can – it was that or Leavenworth.

  4. Thanks for allowing us all a chance to give shout-outs to our work! I agree with Claire, I think I might have to do something similar when my next book is released. But until then, I’ve got two I’d like to throw out, if you don’t mind.

    The scent of smoke that came with the man who called himself Grayland was oddly familiar.
    — from my dystopian novel, Year of the Songbird: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Songbird-Bryan-Caron/dp/0988944308/

    Zoe met Kayla by accident on the bridge overlooking Lover’s Pond.
    — from my novel young adult fantasy novel, In the Light of the Eclipse,: http://www.amazon.com/Light-Eclipse-Bryan-Caron/dp/0988944324/

    You can check out more info or read the first chapter of both books here: http://publications.divinetrinityfilms.com/

    Thanks again, Jools and good luck with Singled Out. Hope it reaches all sales expectations you may have!

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the various inputs. Maybe you’ll see something that gets your attention, and who knows, discover a new favourite author!

  5. Riding, riding, he had been riding when the dragon appeared overhead and came slowly, inevitably, down.

    This is from my Fantasy-Love Story novel MOTH AND SPARK, out last year from Viking in hardcover, just out in paper. http://www.amazon.com/Moth-Spark-Novel-Anne-Leonard/dp/0143126210/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422216829&sr=1-1&keywords=moth+and+spark

    Thanks for this opportunity to self-promote. And good luck to you with your release — be prepared for people to have completely contradictory opinions!

    1. Oh, that’s fun. I haven’t had a fantasy story yet! Thanks so much for joining in, and giving some new potential readers a chance to connect with your story.

  6. I love your first line. Definitely makes me want to read more. It won’t be long now before you’re a published author!

    My first line from “The Seneca Scourge” is: “Thomas Lamb once read somewhere that a human sneeze sprayed thousands of germs at one hundred miles per hour up to twelve feet away, the particles lingering in the air for minutes, waiting to be inhaled.” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Seneca-Scourge-ebook/dp/B009BJ3BZ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347884608&sr=8-1&keywords=the+seneca+scourge)

    I’d probably write it differently now, but I guess it gets the point across that something infectious is about to happen. 😉 Ah-ah-choo!

    1. Having read and very much enjoyed The Seneca Scourge, I know what follows this line – a great read, a very timely story, pacy and well told, and a big, twisty ending. I loved your book, Carrie!

  7. How can I resist such an offer!

    I’m starting with dialogue – a no-no for new writers, I’ve read. I haven’t finished the book yet, the first in a trilogy (of course).

    I must cheat, for it is fantasy and you cannot tell without the second sentence.

    “And you’re sure, absolutely sure, no-one else knows about this?”
    The elderly dragonrider, leaning against his green dragon, slipped a hand inside his riding leathers, and scratched while he thought.

    Congratulations, Julie! And thanks for sharing your journey with us. All the best for 2015.

    1. That’s great, and thanks for sharing – you’re my second dragon! I wish you all good luck with completing your manuscript and bringing your story to readers.

  8. Oh goodness me, there are far too many intriguing first lines here, I am tempted by all of them. I am not publishing or self publishing, just a friend of Jools enjoying reading the blog posts and comments! Thank you all for keeping me from my chores…. 🙂

  9. A cracking noise brings me awake in an instant, my heart pounding.

    What follows is the first book of a three-book series set in both the neolithic period and modern times with a twisty, other-worldly connection between the two. This first book is titled ROCKSLIDE: Journals from the Age of Copper. Classifying it is tricky….scifi, fantasy, historical…all those things really. It’s available on
    Amazon and most of the first two chapters can be read on our website: http://NormAndBurny.com

    I have a writing partner who lives 1500 miles from me so we work by Skype. Jay Hosler and I have been playing music together for about 45 years and started this writing project three years ago. We have self-published the first two of a five-book series, Norm and Burny: The Black Square and The Girl with the Gold Coin. At our ages (both 76!) we didn’t have time to wait for some agent or publisher to decide our books were golden, so self-publishing was the solution.

    We’re having a great time writing, something both of us have always wanted to do, and even enjoy the editing process because we do it together by reading passages aloud to each other. The buddy system really works here.

    Our Norm & Burny books are for middle readers on up. The characters age with each book. The dog, Burny, remains the start of the show throughout. Rockslide is for young adults on up.

    Thanks for the opportunity to present our work!

      1. Thanks for this – I’ve corrected Peggy’s original post with your link too. Your books sound great, and I love that they’re cross-genre – they just are what they are!

    1. I love your personal writing story and the whole partnering/Skype thing, and your first line. And I’ve corrected the link in your post so it’s easier for other people to find straight off. Thanks so much for sharing this.

      1. Naturally, behind the writing part of our partnership there lies a story. We exchange visits to play music. I was in Texas for a week of music when a musical colleague told us he wanted to write children’s books. The next time we were together, months later, he confessed that he hadn’t begun. We decided try to kick-start him by writing something ourselves, and began exchanging paragraphs by email. That was a half million words ago. Obsessions are more easily acquired than dismissed.

        In 2013 we turned to finishing and publishing all of that. We work together two hours every morning, using Skype and Google Docs. We’ve published three books and intend to publish one or two per year until we’ve caught up with our initial surge of writing. Our most recent book — Rockslide — is the first thing we wrote. We dedicated it to the friend whose desire to write got us started. He still hasn’t begun.


        1. What a lovely story! I know what it’s like to be inspired to write through friendship. I met a special person who became first my writing buddy and then one of my closest friends. We encouraged one another to write, critiqued for one another, helped each other make progress every week, despite all the competing priorities – and today we both have completed manuscripts and the pleasure of a lasting friendship.

  10. I love this idea – and your novel sounds great.
    My debut novel, The Single Feather published by Pilrig Press is released late Feb 2015 and the first line is:
    The guards were in the living room watching television with the back door open, the mid-June heat, still oppressive in the early evening.

  11. Technically, my novel’s first sentence is a quote by Lucille Ball. All of An Uncertain Faith’s chapters open with a quote. “Women’s Lib? Oh, I’m afraid it doesn’t interest me one bit. I’ve been so liberated it hurts.”

    My first sentence then reads “A solitary large tree stood with its branches extending into the recently darkened sky.” – from An Uncertain Faith available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PYYB06A), Smashwords, Kobo, etc.

    1. I do like the idea of opening each chapter with a quote – it sets the tone, gives a hint to what follows. Nice! As for your actual first sentence, it suggests an sense of foreboding to me, although you can’t always tell from just the one line. Thanks for sharing your opener(s) and the link too.

    2. Ooh, and I knew I’d seen your cover design before… it was one of the ones that so impressed me when I was debating whether to post my own brief for a cover design on 99Designs. I was so happy with the results for Singled Out, and you clearly got a great result too!

  12. Great post and idea – makes me laugh that I commented on your other post about disliking hooks for opening lines, but forgot that I am kind of guilty of this myself.

    My book is a non-fiction collection of essays about the negative impact of self-esteem. I call it a pop-cultural analysis. Hard to tell that from my opening sentence, though:

    There was a precise moment in time where it all fell apart and everything went to hell.

    The Snowflake Effect: How the Self-Esteem Movement Ruined a Generation, by Trey Willis – Available on Amazon

    1. Ha! yes 🙂 Your book sounds really interesting, and your first sentence could stand up well on Page One of a good novel! Thanks for joining in the ‘first sentence’ post 🙂

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