A WIP (work in progress) is a fragile thing. It is very much like a newborn baby, freshly caught in a midwife’s hands. It blinks up at the world in uncertain wonder while it silently begs to have a few smears of blood and slime wiped away.

Just like new parents who frantically count fingers and toes, novelists pay particular attention to the extremities: first lines. First scenes. Last lines.

The first line and first scene I shared with you last week has gone back to the garage for an overhaul (and please forgive me for switching metaphors!)

Anything that receives a less than spectacular response—or that doesn’t fill me with pleasure—needs to go back to the workshop. On a scale of 1-10, last week’s effort earned about a seven from me, so that’s not working. Off it goes . . . maybe not to the trash heap, but definitely not to the first page.

In any case, I asked some of my (more) brilliant friends for the first lines of their works-in-progress—unedited, slimy, newborns. I’m inspired just by reading them. ☺ Enjoy!


In the darkness, the covered bridge crouched over the creek like a giant cocoon. –From Anathema by Colleen Coble

By tradition, Saturday mornings were savored in the Clarkson household. –First line for: THE PERFECT LIFE (Thomas Nelson, spring 2008), by Robin Lee Hatcher

The muscles across Hannah’s shoulders ached as she continued driving toward a past she didn’t want to face. From When the Silence Whispers, by Cindy Woodsmall.

So high, houses smaller than her dollhouse, fields stretching out and away, a pond tossing sun rays skyward.—From The Edge of Recall, by Kristen Heitzmann

The Gulf of Maine lay easily beneath the mail boat’s keel, passing gentle swells below the vessel like a mother’s soothing stroke upon a baby’s back. This was misery to me. – Athol Dickson, Winter Haven, Spring, 2008

The morning sun had just cleared the summits to the east, so the grass in the small valley was still thick with dew, wetting the boots and the shins of the man and the boy. –From WIND RIVER, Tom Morrisey

A city in ruins, nine people dead and thirty dying, the bomber on the loose, and the best lead that Jason Logan could come up with was a nineteen-year-old punk named Michael Rondo. –From Darkening by Kathy Mackel.

Only the fog is real. –From Faces in the Sand, by Marlo Schalesky.

She wouldn’t have said anything if that endearing band of pink hadn’t showed above the top of his jeans as he leaned over the washer. –From Dancing in the Dark by Elizabeth White

Something about the lazy cadence of the Missouri River, so constant and wide and life sustaining, has always given me focus, even though it sometimes overflows its banks. –From Hallowed Halls, by Hannah Alexander.

Shouts from the edge of the forest shattered the afternoon quiet.
From The Captive Princess: The Story of Young Pocahontas, by Wendy Lawton.

I left him in tears. That’s right, tears. Even across the stage I could see his eyes puddling up and face turning white. –From The Skeptic, by Alton Gansky.

Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a formidable barrier. –From DragonLight, by Donita Paul.

“Piper, don’t do it!” –From Our Space, by Sarah Ann Sumpolec.

The woman didn’t even look at me when she came to the door where the housekeeper had left me waiting. From Here Comes The Ride, by Lorena McCourtney.

The man appeared in the doorway of my studio unannounced, a brown paper package tucked under his arm. From Whispers of the Bayou, by Mindy Starns Clark.

Leviathan glided purposefully through the depths, chance rays of sunlight shimmering against his scales while throwing his vast shadow into the waters below. From Atlantis: Leviathan’s Hearth by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow.

Bea Abbot was desperate to escape from the paperwork on her desk, but an invitation to investigate a murder was not exactly the excuse she’d had in mind when she answered the phone. –From a murder mystery by Veronica Heley

My new and improved first line: The microcamera hidden in our officer’s glasses homes in on a poster of a long-necked blonde with wide eyes, a straight nose, high cheekbones, and an impish chin—the requisite parts of a face, all of which I am lacking. –from THE FACE, my WIP.


That’s it. Which is your favorite first line? Which demands that you read on?

~~Angie, whose favorite of all time is: “Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he tried to kill himself, but not the second or the third.” –From Jodi Picoult’s SECOND GLANCE.


  1. Kelli Standish

    This line absolutely grabbed me: “I left him in tears. That’s right, tears. Even across the stage I could see his eyes puddling up and face turning white.”

    With just a few words he’s conveyed a strong sense of voice and place, and multiple unanswered questions.

    That’s a book I’ll be watching for!


  2. Lynda

    Your new, improved first line is a winner–especially the last phrase! I also agree with Kelli’s comment– the first line of Alton Gansky’s book is wonderful. I’ve never read one of his books before, but that line makes me want to read this one! So,there you go–a good first line can even grab you a new fan!

  3. Kay

    I love your new line.
    I like Al’s.
    Athol Dickson’s SECOND line pulls me in.
    The one with the guy in pink underwear is good, too! The word endearing is key there. And I don’t even like romances, but it sets a tone I think I would enjoy.

  4. Brittanie

    Alton Gansky’s is my favorite first line with Elizabeth White’s a close second. His really grabs you. I want to know more in both cases. 🙂

  5. jan

    i agree with you, angela. i had seen the first line of jodi picoult’s book before, but couldn’t remember the name of the book. i now have it! is the book as good as it sounds?
    also liked robin lee hatcher’s and elizabeth white’s.

  6. Pam Meyers

    Am I missing something? Where is the line from Jodi Picoult? I read through Angie’s list twice and couldn’t find it. I need another cup of coffee!

  7. Angela

    Better make it a double expresso, Pam. The Picoult line is right after my name (look after the colon!). 🙂

  8. CrownLaidDown

    I’m excited to see a new book by Kristen Heitzmann! Yay!

    I have to say that as much as the first line draws me in…I don’t really focus on it as much as the first two chapters. If they are not drawing me in, I don’t usually finish it. I have a shelf of about 15 books this year that I just couldn’t seem to finish. I keep them out, so maybe I’ll pick them up and like them the 2nd time around.
    Love in Him,

  9. Jill Eileen Smith

    Is that a new book by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow? I love her Biblical fiction, so I’m going to go with that first line as a favorite. I also liked Alton Gansky’s and Marlo Schalesky’s “Only the fog is real.” Makes me want to know why.

    As for your new line for your wip, Angie – I loved the end of the sentence – “all of which I am lacking.” Perfect! But in all honesty, the phrase “officer’s glasses homes” tripped me up. Too many words ending in ‘s’ all in a row, so I had to reread it several times to get it to click in my brain. Might be just me though – see what others say. 🙂

    I agree with your favorite – Jodi Picoult has me hooked – I need to read some of her work. 🙂


  10. Kay

    I agree with Jill. I was thinking that just saying “Our microcamera hones in on…” would be easier to read. Maybe mention that its in his glasses in another sentence?
    But, I try to keep my editing tendencies to myself. I probably should be an editor instead of a writer. I edit everything I read!

  11. Nicole

    Loved “Only the fog is real.”

  12. VAIL

    Only the fog is real by Marlo Schalesky was the most beautiful of the first lines.
    His pink underware by Elizabeth White is the one that made me want to read the rest of the chapter. Though not sure I’d want to know/read why he has on pink underware!
    The first line of Darkening by Kathy M. was the most likely to make me want to read the book.
    In your first line – I must admit, I was confused and had to think through it to understand. the Officers glasses homes part was confusing and the lacking part – was the narrator lacking a face, or the attributes of the model?
    I just finished reading your book “Uncharted”. It was the first book by you that I have read, and I enjoyed it. I was also disturbed by it. I’m still pondering it. It was very creative. Surprising. Interesting. Will suggest it to others.
    I am now reading The Elevator. Enjoying it so far!


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