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Showing 1-25 of 27 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2012 6:11:40 AM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
I just finished reading the first lines of all 131 GF quarter-finalist excerpts, and these are my favorites (in no particular order). What fun! Maybe someone wants to do the same for another category? (BTW, I re-typed these, so I apologize to the authors if there are any typos, etc.)

True to his word, Bubba had already eaten the entire sack of sliders.
(from What Lit Up The Night by Bison Messink)

These are the last minutes of Charlie Kaleohano's life.
(from A Chant of Love and Lamentation by Brian Reeves)

From the moment I saw Ethnar and Amna at the orphanage, their ankles coated in dust, I knew.
(from No Way to Fall off this Earth by Carrie Esposito)

What likely put Michaela Tomason over the edge, believe it or not, was a radish.
(from Incensed by Cary Sparks)

It turned out the rumors were true.
(from The Campaign by Donald Shinn)

When Craig Nero was thirteen, he watched a man beat his father unconscious.
(from Suicide Contest by Gordon Fraser)

It didn't occur to me at the edge of the muddy pond that I'd broken the sixth commandment, actually committed murder.
(from Crooked Lines by Holly Michael)

He had doused his colostomy bag in petrol; that would be the first thing to go.
(from Papercut by Ian McLachlan)

Remy Torres told me I was ugly enough to be a model.
(from Habits and Hijabs by Joseph Love)

The shoes give her away.
(from What Beauty by Mark Beyer)

On the same afternoon that he would die, Michael Young Jr. lost his first tooth.
(from Mourning Dove by Meg Wilson)

Negro streets are crazy.
(from Black and Tan Fantasy by Randall Luce)

The first time Robert Johnson died, he wasn't Robert Johnson.
(from Play Pretty Blues by Snowden Wright)

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 7:28:55 AM PDT
There are some great ones! Wish I had written some of them.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 10:31:06 AM PDT
Maggie. Wow! I'm impressed and also very pleased that you liked the first line of "The Campaign."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012 12:49:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012 12:50:06 PM PDT
Ana Mardoll says:
I like those, but especially:

>> The first time Robert Johnson died, he wasn't Robert Johnson.

Here's hoping someone does the YA novels!

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 1:23:41 PM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
Your excerpt is on my kindle, so I should be getting a review done soon :)

I might do the YA as well (just for fun!) if I get really bored or just want to procrastinate on my own work...

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 1:26:37 PM PDT
Thanks Maggie! I hope you enjoy it.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 5:17:41 PM PDT
Aw shucky ducky! I'm so glad you liked mine.

And I like Swonden's too. But then, he had me at "Robert Johnson" (great Delta blues musician, for those who don't know).

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 11:09:16 PM PDT
Betty K says:
Here is my favorite so far: "There is a place where time stops and eternity survives under a shade of green." I'm just started reading this excerpt but already loving it.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 9:42:48 AM PDT
Muggle says:
Aren't there 250 GF quarter-finalists?

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 10:23:39 AM PDT
Marianne says:
Those are some great first lines. It'd be interesting to hear from the authors how they came up with their first lines and at what point in the writing process their first line was completed.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 12:27:51 PM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
Oops! I meant General Lit (within the GF category). Sorry if I offended anyone. I'm sure many of the excerpts in the other GF categories had great first lines too, I just didn't have time to look at them all!

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 7:13:21 AM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
Here are some of my favorites from YA. Has anyone else read a line they found particularly compelling (doesn't have to be a first line)? I'd love to see some more of the great writing from these excerpts without reading each one!! Add a line here (maybe even one from your own novel) :)

The night shifts at Bully Burger are the absolute worst.
(from Zomburbia by Adam Kreutz Gallardo)

The chains were overkill.
(from Snake Talker by Anna-Maria Crum)

Mama had the kind of voice that could stop a train in its tracks.
(from Jukebox by Camille Leone)

My brother Gabriel was a blistering boil on my butt from the minute we were born.
(from Synapse by D. August Baertlein)

Life is hard enough without knowing your expiration date.
(from Seventeen Going On Dead by E. M. Verhalen)

For the third time this week, someone has jacked my ride.
(from Stray by Ellen Goodlett)

Nathan Carver imagined that the blackbirds were always watching him.
(from The Highway West by Jason Andrew)

It's weird to say it now, but I was a lucky kid.
(from My Aim is True by Lee Patton)

The first time I dragged the edge of the knife across my thigh should have been enough.
(from The Summer Girl by Shane Kennedy)

People don't usually look at me.
(from Random Acts of Nudity by Susan Taitel)

The skin on Alan Bigby's pock-marked face rippled as if something was alive underneath it.
(from Demon Whisperer by Tawny Stokes)

Wet socks make it harder to run.
(from The Last Memory by Trevor Faulkner)

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 7:30:03 AM PDT
L. Jefferson says:
Those are some great first lines.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 12:49:47 PM PDT
MarkBeyer says:
Hi, Marianne. I came up with the line "The shoes give her away." fairly early in the writing process, perhaps even in my first notes on putting this novel together. The idea came to me after seeing a man walking through Central Park who was dressed quite shabbily, but nevertheless wore polished Manolo Blahnik's, and who, after exiting the park, walked into a posh, West Side high-rise. This type of character thus intrigued me, and I knew I'd someday use him/her in some role.

Mark Beyer
Author of "The Village Wit"
and "What Beauty"
blogs at

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 1:28:03 PM PDT
Marianne says:
That's interesting, Mark. I was curious because you hear so often that writers scrap their first several paragraphs or even first two or three chapters.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 9:56:24 AM PDT
MarkBeyer says:
You're right, Marianne. Several paragraphs did go, and new ones appeared, but the "shoes" line was (and is) one of the lines that keeps the reader interested from the beginning.

Posted on May 17, 2012 11:10:12 AM PDT
A couple of things:

First, Mark, I read they had a picture of a bunch of hobos arrested the day before Kennedy was killed in Dallas, at least one of who was wearing very expensive shoes. The photo resembled Woody Harrelson's father, whom was a contract killer for the mob.

Second. Those are some damn fine first lines. Not a stinker among them. I have made a habit of browsing bookstores (the shoppes with paper inside cardboard covers) while they still exist, and read a ton of first lines. They almost uniformly suck.

From this I am forced to conclude that first lines are meaningless as to getting published. If you really want to succeed as a writer, take my advice and get hammered at a bar on the Jersey Shore. Then when some guido on steroids punches you in the nose, you can make a viral video and use the fame to write better selling books with bad first lines.

It's much more profitable and ultimately less painful.

Posted on May 17, 2012 1:15:41 PM PDT
Ari says:
I scrap entire drafts and rewrite from scratch, especially with short stories, but also with novels.

Posted on May 17, 2012 1:20:20 PM PDT
Aw, glad you liked mine, thanks! :D
I love "The chains were overkill" and "The first time Robert Johnson died, he wasn't Robert Johnson." too. All of these are great!

Posted on May 17, 2012 8:15:23 PM PDT
Seventeen Going on Dead was a great except. Loved it!

Posted on May 17, 2012 8:43:06 PM PDT
Brian Reeves says:
I'm honored you selected my opening sentence! Getting one right isn't easy, yet so much hangs on it.

Posted on May 18, 2012 6:44:28 AM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
I'm interested to see if any of the books I picked here will be in the finals. According to the list of semi-finalists, 5 of the 13 Gen. Lit. books and 6 of the 12 YA books I picked in the QFs made the semis (that's a rate of 38-50%). So maybe having a great first line does mean something, because, statistically speaking, only 1 out of 5 (20%) should have advanced. Hmmm...

Posted on May 18, 2012 7:14:35 AM PDT
Unfortunately "The Campaign" didn't advance to the finals despite making your list.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2012 8:45:02 AM PDT
Khoti Sarque says:
If I remember correctly, one of the characters in 'The Plague' was a would-be author who had spent his entire life polishing his first line - but had never written the second.


In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2012 1:24:03 PM PDT
Maggie Bloom says:
@ Khoti -- That's a pretty funny premise :)
@ Donald -- I was happy to see that The Campaign made the semis (but sad that you're not in the finals--unless you just can't tell us yet). Your story also inspires me, since, if I remember correctly, you have entered ABNA multiple years with 2012 being your best showing yet. I hope your persistence pays off and you find an agent/publisher soon :)
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Participants:  17
Total posts:  27
Initial post:  Mar 23, 2012
Latest post:  May 18, 2012

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