Those first lines

“The most important sentence in an article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he is hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the ‘lead.’”

--William Zinsser, On Writing Well

The quote is referring to nonfiction articles, but it applies equally well to your fiction manuscript’s opening hook.

There’s something about a terrific opening line that pulls me immediately into the story. It builds anticipation in the reader that this will be a GREAT story, not just an okay one, because the very first line is so intriguing.

Here are some examples of good opening lines:
Scene transitions – opening hooks

The opening of your manuscript is not the place to be lazy or sloppy with your writing. Make every sentence count, because that reader picking your book up in Barnes and Noble is only going to give you a page or two to decide if your book is worth buying and reading.

Make every sentence on those first two pages be as tightly written, as full of conflict, as interesting as you can make them.

You can expect to spend more time on your first chapter than on any of your other chapters, because it’s the most important part of your story. Allocate the time to make it as great as you can.

Make the first sentence intriguing. Make the second sentence even better. Make the third sentence interest the reader still more.

Use critique partners liberally until they’re complaining to you (although please remember to reciprocate, don’t be a selfish writer).

If you spend that extra time on those first lines, first pages, first chapter, your story will start winning contests, will garner editor and agent attention, will fly off the bookshelves.


  1. GREAT advice.
    I came here through Ashley Weis's blog.


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