1.What is your book’s first line, and did it change over time?
“Julia was killed on Labor Day, on her way home from a party.” It actually changed very little, which is unusual for me. But I always knew the book would start with Julia’s death.
–Jennifer R. Hubbard, THE SECRET YEAR
The novel’s first line is “The trail was too crowded for a hard ride.” Wow, did it change! Maybe a dozen times from my first draft to my last. In fact, I still think about changing it! I think it’s the hardest line to write in a novel.
–Janet Fox, FAITHFUL
“Mama pulled a chicken egg from behind the azalea bush in our front yard and narrowed her eyes.” I had the same first line up until the last draft! Then we shifted things around and moved my previous first line to the middle of the first chapter.
–Irene Latham, LEAVING GEE’S BEND
“She knew every inch of the forest, every narrow path that twisted and wound its way beneath the silver branches.”
And no; this is the exact first line that I scribbled in a notebook back when I started writing this book.
–Leah Cypess, MISTWOOD
Written in verse, this is Celestia speaking:
South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club: Lake Conemaugh
“Father says he comes for the fishing
but in truth he comes to keep an eye
on other businessmen.”
I had dreamed of writing this book for so long that I couldn’t conceive of how to start it…so I just jumped in with Celestia describing her family and figured I’d cut later. Surprisingly the opening has changed very little! The first draft had Father coming to the lake resort to rest, on doctor’s orders, but he evolved into such a competitive workaholic that it became more relevant to have him go wherever business is being conducted, even informally.
–Jame Richards, THREE RIVERS RISING
My first line changed several times throughout my revisions. I think I turned in 5 different drafts to my agent, and this version of my first line didn’t appear until draft 4 or 5: “You’re taller than me,” I said as I approached the thin figure standing in front of the green bench.
–Kristina McBride, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES
First line and entire opening paragraph: “Splash!”
Not only did the first line change countless times, after it changed, the entire first chapter changed three or four times.
–Bonnie J. Doerr, ISLAND STING
The first line (which was also the spark that led to writing the whole book) was originally “Brent Staple is such a banjo”, but since no one knows what a “banjo” is (a combination between a wanker and someone you’d love to hate), the opening line changed to: “Of all the stupid things he could have done, Brent Staple had to go and do that.”
–Alexandra Diaz, OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS
First line of Freaksville: “I so needed a filter between my brain and my body, one with big flashy lights and blaring sirens that ruptured my eardrums if I was about to do anything stupid.”
It was the first sentence that popped into my head as I started to write Freaksville. The story is told through the sixteen-year-old heroine’s (Kasey Maxwell’s) blog, so each chapter starts off with a blog heading. Kasey is telling the story, and it’s personal. Then it bleeds into a more traditional format. Kasey is a bit of a drama queen. I had a lot of fun with her blog headings.
Technically the first line is right under “Chapter One,” but I consider those more of headers:
“Kasey’s Blog: Huge crisis—I’m in Freaksville!”
That was added after I completed the first draft. (There were so many that my keyboard was almost instated into the witness protection program. I’d threatened to chuck it out the second story window a few times. But, alas, I made it through the edits, and my ol’ faithful keyboard is still gainfully employed.)
–Kitty Keswick, FREAKSVILLE
(I chose to talk about my title:) It was called SHOOTING KABUL BARBIE, but the Barbie was dropped since it has a boy protagonist and some thought a boy wouldn’t pick up a book with the word ‘Barbie’ in the title. There was some contoversy to using the word ‘shooting’ since it connotates violence and use of guns, but since it applies to photography also, it was kept.
–N.H. Senzai, SHOOTING KABUL
“If I had known “normal” could disappear so quickly would I have appreciated it more?”
In the first draft it was something like “My Name is Emmi Miller and here are things I love.” Whatever it was, it was awful, which became pretty clear with my first few agent rejections.
–Shari Maurer, CHANGE OF HEART
“Dead people, corrupt politicians, stupid burglars and your basic mischief and mayhem are what newspapers are all about. And to tell the truth, I wanted in on it.”
This wasn’t the very first line when I started out writing NABBED, but as soon as I realized the reason my main character wanted so badly to be involved in newspapers I knew what the first line had to be.
–Michele Corriel, NABBED: A NEWSPAPER MYSTERY
“Rio stiffened beneath my touch, striking a glossy hoof against the floor.”
Originally the book started with: “I closed the door behind me, heading down the hallway and straight to Hell.” (This line now begins chapter one and the other line starts my prologue. The prologue was added at my editor’s request–he likes additional “supernatural funk” and I’m happy to provide it!
–Shannon Delany, 13 TO LIFE: A WEREWOLF’S TALE
“Now I have to start lying.”
Nope, never changed. I was pretty committed to it. I thought it was important to suggest, at the start, that the reader-narrator relationship is a little complicated in this book.
–Swati Avasthi, SPLIT
My first line, which came to me out of nowhere before I even had a book idea, was, “I really shouldn’t have been at school the day my brother tried to eat his first grade teacher.” But over time, as the plot evolved, people kept telling me that I had to introduce the main plot line (which involves an enchanted cat) earlier. It grieved me deeply to give up my beloved line, which had inspired my very first book (sniffle)…but it finally became, “Come to think of it, the day my brother tried to eat his first grade teacher turned out to be the same day my dad brought me home a very, very strange cat.”
–Rhonda Hayter, THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS
“Eddy sat on the steps outside Drayton Middle School, where the noise from the science fair in the gym still roared in his head.” I tweaked it a bit, but it’s essentially the same, with Eddy on the steps.
–Jacqueline Houtman, THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS
Good question! The first line now is: “The statue has got to go.” The opening line has always involved the four-inch Jesus statue, but it has changed over time. It started as an action line (knocking over the statue), then changed to a narrative line (describing the significance of the statue), and finally became Brie’s direct thought.
–Denise Jaden, LOSING FAITH
First line: “You can hear me, can’t you?”
I’m pretty sure this was the original first line, which has only happened with one other book (usually I rewrite the first scene top to bottom). In the first scene, a ghost is speaking to the main character, Aura. It starts off as a pretty standard opening for a girl-who-talks-to-ghosts book, but then we quickly find out that *everyone* Aura’s age and younger can see and hear ghosts.
–Jeri Smith-Ready, SHADE
— – Under My Skin