How to Open a book?

It is one of those questions that writers worry at for ages. How to start your novel so that the reader is drawn into the story from the beginning.

This is the question that has been troubling me at the moment. I finished my new novel  ‘The Angel Bug’ last year.  I then spent considerable time editing it and it has been to my proof reader. I have it back now and I must now put in the time to make the corrections and contemplate any other changes I need to make before it is published.

In this case I am not only worrying over that crucial first line – but also where in the story I should start? At the beginning – is the usual answer, but the end (or should I say the bit just before the end) seems to be calling to me as it helps put the rest in perspective.

But is that a good idea – will it change the whole feel of what follows?  I have read and re-read my own book so often enough that I now have no idea.

This is where beta readers come in handy – folk who can manage to pass through and by the spelling and typo errors to tell you if your book has got IT and whether is pulls the reader into the world of your characters. So we come back to that first line!

Lets play a game – can you match these first lines to the correct book and author*? (*options below)

 1, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

2, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

3, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

4, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

5, “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

6, “No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

7, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

8, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Books and Authors:

A, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald / B,  Matilda, Roald Dahl / C,  Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier / D,  The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger / E,  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams / F,  Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy / G,  Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen / H,  The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

That was fun – I hope you got most of them! Answers at the end of the blog. How did you do? Why not share this blog with friends  ( on FB or Twitter or forward it ) to see how they get on?

Now, here are my two openings vying for that special place. In each case I have given the chapter title too.

opening One

Gabbi 18 Oct 2011

Thirty years should change a man, I thought, but looking at the handsome face on the giant  poster it didn’t look like it had done much to Luke Adamson’s features except, perhaps, to hone them a little more, making him more rugged, a man to be taken seriously. 

opening Two

Emma 2084

I’m seventy-six this year and though I had known about the stuff since 2012, even I hadn’t put two and two together to realise what had happened to change everything so much, that is, not until I read the records my mother left behind.

I would LOVE to hear your feedback – what kind of book do you think it will be? Which first sentence makes you want to read on most? Could I even start with opening 2 and move straight on to opening 1?


1,C  /   2, G  /  3,A  /  4,E  /  5.B  /  6,H  /   7.F  /  8.D

If you’d like to read the openings of my other full novels just click on the book icon on the side bar – it will take you to a page where you can download the first 3 chapters for free.

(BTW – for FWT cheerleaders – half a pound down – only 1 to go!!!)


4 thoughts on “How to Open a book?

  1. Well, that will teach me to scroll down….

    Looking at the first lines I only managed to identify 4 books, but then I realised that you’d given us the answers (after scrolling!) and then I could work out the other 4, although two were lucky guesses!

    As for the first line of your new novel – which I am looking forward to reading – hmmm, a dilemma for sure, I think perhaps the second option would whet my apetite a tad more than the other, but on the other hand, I have always been a sucker for a “rugged looking man” (but that’s another story!)

    • Thank you Krissi!
      Well done on the quiz – I used a varied range of books from different genre so you did well! (Have now added a note now to say the options are down the page to help)
      Thank you for your first line choice – noted 🙂

  2. I like the 2nd opening personally about Emma reading her mothers records.
    The only book I recognised was Rebecca, a lovely read. I had to resort to looking for the answers on the others 🙁

    • Hi Lynda,
      Thank you for your comment – it is very helpful – as I said, it is so easy to get so used to your own work (havng read and re-read it so often) you can’t see which is the best way to go.

      I picked a variety of types of novel for the quiz – so if you like one genre in particular there is no reason to know the opening for the others – glad you had a go anyway!
      best Ann

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