Mile 9: First Line

The novel of 50,000 words begins with the first line.

With apologies to Lao Tzu, writing a book is a journey, and at some point, you have to start. For most of us, staring at that blank page, or that blank screen, with not a word written, can be daunting, even overwhelming.

Fight that feeling, and start writing!

We have plenty to discuss still, even additional things you can do before you actually start writing. But let’s not wait. Let’s write that first line.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Call me Ishmael.

It was a dark and stormy night; 

All this happened, more or less.

It was love at first sight.

It is easy to argue, and difficult to debate, that the most important line of any story or any book, is the first one. You have a golden opportunity to grab the reader, to pull them into the second line, and the third…

You also have an opportunity lose them. Most readers will give you more than a single line to grab their attention, but there’s no reason to risk it.

Now, that being said, let’s not overthink the first line. The great thing about writing is that you can go back and change it. As you progress with your book, you may discover a better first line, or five different better first lines. That’s the fun of editing, the joy of discovering.

But you’ve got to put that first line down on paper. Take that first step.

If you haven’t done it. If you’ve found a thousand things to do instead of doing it. If it scares you death. Stop. Stop right now, sit down and write the first line of your book. And when you’re done, savor it, enjoy it — and get to work on the second line.

I wish you good writing, and if you have a question or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected]

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!

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