Writers obsess about their opening line. How much does it really matter, though?
Think about it. In today’s marketplace, if someone is reading your opening line, the following has happened:
- Either your marketing or a recommendation has gotten them to your book page
- Your cover and description intrigued them
- They accessed the preview feature
If they’ve gone that far, they’re probably willing to give you a little time to develop the story. You don’t have to hook them with, literally, the first line.
If the first line isn’t that important, what is?
My #1 Tip About Openings – Don’t Screw Up!
Seriously, your potential customer is likely willing to give you to the end of the preview unless you completely suck. If you don’t do the following in the first several paragraphs, you’re probably good:
- Typos, spelling, and grammatical errors
- Info Dump
- Too much telling
- Too passive
- Nothing happens
- Clunky writing
If you prove in those first paragraphs that you’re a competent writer, you’ll probably get them to continue. The trick now becomes – How do you convert that potential customer to a paying customer?
My #2 Tip About Openings – The Preview Is All-Important!
The reader has access to the first 10% of your book for free. In that space, you must make them want to read the rest by:
- Giving the reader a character they want to read about – Pundits use words like “likeable” and “relatable” to describe your goal here, but I think these labels can get in the way. The point is to ask yourself this question, “Why should the reader care about this character?” You need to be able to answer it and have a plan to make the reader care.
- Creating a significant situation that will provoke a major change in the character’s life – In that first 10% of your book, you must set up the situation that drives the rest of the story. There’s no time here for backstory. Get to the point!
Does this advice help you? What draws you into a book?