A Book’s First Words


“Done right, the opening line can set the whole tone for the book, capturing the reader almost immediately. Done wrong and it can have the opposite effect.”

I ran across this comment somewhere online recently and it made me wonder  — what are the first words to my book?

And by my book I mean Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986 , coming out in just a few months. (shameless plug).

I mean, this is the kind of thing an author should know about their own book, right?

So I quickly pulled up the latest version and here’s what I read:

“On the one hand is the idea. On the other, the reality.”

I was impressed. Those are some pretty darn good first words of a book, if I do say so myself.

They’re very apropos of the book’s subject matter — the space shuttle — thus why they were written (and not by me, I should add, but by the Bold They Rise co-author.) I mean, when the space shuttle program was first envisioned it was gonna fly 50 times a year. That was the idea. Reality? There were only 134 missions total over the entire program. And there were other ideas of how the space transportation system would work that didn’t exactly turn out as planned too.

The idea versus the reality is true also about the process of writing Bold They Rise. I was brought on to the project  at what I thought was the end but what in reality was the middle. I signed contract six months before the first deadline, but running over deadline and then the review and editing process and all the final details has taken 4 years.

So, a question for discussion: do you pay attention to the first words of books and if so what are some of your favorites?


2 thoughts on “A Book’s First Words

  1. My husband just finished writing a novel (we’re in the editing phase now) so I just looked at his first line:
    A lone vehicle bounced across the desert floor at 60 miles per hour.

    I like that but I really like the first line of his 2nd paragraph:
    It looks like a little piece of hell, frozen in time, he thought to himself.

    I need the first couple of paragraphs to grab me or I’m likely to set the book aside and possibly never pick it up again.

  2. That’s cool Julie. If I can help with his novel let me know. I’d love to give it an early read. Have we talked about this before?

    One of my favorite first book lines is the in the photo I used from the book Ahab’s Wife. She says, “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.”

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