The First Line


‘The ability to trust in the difficult. The tenacity to understand that it takes time and patience to succeed.’ Colm McCann, novelist and professor of creative writing.

It wasn’t until a couple of reviews mentioned their love for the first line of my novel ‘In the Light of Madness’, that I realised how important a first line can be. Here is the opening to the book…

‘Gravestones jutted out of the ground like candles on a birthday cake. They marked an occasion in a person’s life, but were ultimately forgotten once the ceremony was over’.

When I received the manuscript back from my editor, I noticed he’d made a comment about the opening lines, and I panicked, thinking if I couldn’t even get that right, what must he have thought about the whole novel? Images of red pen marks pelted my mind. However, he was complimenting me on the lines – which is something to treasure from an editor!

But I’ll admit this now, it wasn’t the original first line when I wrote the first draft. No, it came to me much later, after I’d already completed the novel and was into the editing stage before sending it off to my editor. How blissful it would be if sentences like these spewed onto the page the moment we hit the keyboard. In reality, it’s not like this, so we should stop being hard on ourselves.

I read an article by Colm McCann in The Guardian (12th May, 2017) where he used the analogy of a house for your opening page. The first sentence is the doorway, and the reader has stepped inside, you can show them around the rest of the house, letting the story unfold slowly.

I will leave you with his comments, as I could not say this in a better way. ‘Open elegantly. Open fiercely. Open delicately. Open with surprise. Open with everything at stake.’ How could I possibly improve on that?

As a gentle nudge, may I show you the opening lines to my latest novel, ‘The Reluctant Mother’. See what you think…

‘I don’t know how I ended up here; I didn’t mean for this to happen to me. It’s supposed to be the start of a new life as a family, but now I barely know or care who I am.’

Happy Word Flow One & All