We've written quite a bit on what makes a great first line, what our favorite first lines are.

But when do we find those first lines? At what part of the process?

The first lines of my books are never, NEVER the first thing I write. I usually don't find them until several drafts in.

Often, I don't even know what the true first scene is when I start. I just start.

What does the first line tell us? Who the character is. What the problem is. Maybe even what the theme is. That's why so many cite the first line of CHARLOTTE'S WEB as being a great opener. With, "Where's Pa going with that ax?" we get a rural setting. We get a child's voice. And we get issues of life and death.

But when do we know our character and our theme? Not when we open a new file. It's a few drafts in.

Don't fall in love with that first line the first time you write it. Don't get so used to seeing it that you stop questioning it. When you write the first line the first time, just think of it as a placeholder. A way to get started.

You don't know what your first line is until you get a chance to meet the rest of your book.


  1. I totally agree with this Holly. It's hard to know what the first line will be until the last line is written.


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