The First Two Sentences

You've written an entire novel, possibly the length of over 100,000 words, yet those first two sentences can provide the most anguish.  They are what can hook a glancing reader, or make them close the book.  No pressure - right?

If you're like me, you're rarely satisfied with the first two sentences.  You revise, and re-work, and "rinse and repeat" so many times that it becomes an obsession.  You wake up in the night with the perfect wording, the ideal epiphany.  You force your eyes open, scribble it on a piece of paper, and in the morning (if it's legible) sometimes it results in a "huh".  And back to the revisions, and the search for perfect words.

So what hooks a reader?  Maybe it's best to start by asking ourselves.  When you pick up a novel what makes you take it to check-out or return it to the shelf?

Personally, I love something that shows conflict - whether it be imminent danger, or just simply a character's internal conflict. It has to be something I can relate to.  I want to feel a connection.

How important on those first two sentences to you?  What hooks you? Do you have any advice on a "formula" for making the perfect start?  How do you turn off the editor's voice, and obsession?  Do you just accept what you have written and move on?


  1. I will admit, I am usually hooked by the first two sentences. I don't look for them to hook me, and I will usually give it the whole first paragraph to decide if I am pulled in enough to continue.
    This made me realize I haven't looked at the first two sentences of my novella in progress. I'm going to go do that now, I might have some changes to make.

  2. That is so very true Carolyn. The first two sentences are definitely the hardest. I have stopped and started a million times, simply because the first sentence doesn't hook me, so how could it possibly hook the reader? I don't know what the perfect formula is, but I am very interested in what works for other writers.

  3. I totally agree the first two are important. But, they are not always what hooks me - it's the back-cover blurb that helps me decide whether to dig deeper into it.

  4. I agree the first few sentences are critical to hook the reader. Two things that matter for me are does the opening create a question that needs to be answered and does the voice appeal to the reader? I try to write something that says read a little longer and turn the page; you'll get the answer while more questions arise. As for the voice, I hope the reader likes the way I say.


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