First Lines

First lines are the most important part of a book – some people say.  And these are particularly important for the editor – the person who can brush away years of hard work with a nonchalent sweep of a hand.  Therefore, writers must instantly grab the editor’s eye with sparkling first words to persuade him, or her, to read on.

Now, imagine you are an editor and you read this first paragraph of a manuscript sitting on your desk.  Do you throw it away or do you read on?

‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.  They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with any such nonsense’.

So, are you tempted?  Do you feel it’s worth reading more?  Perhaps just one more paragraph:

‘Mr Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.  He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large moustache.  Mrs Dursley was thin and blond and had twice the usual ammount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on her neighbours.  The Dursleys had a small son cvalled Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere’.

So now what do you think?  Does it grab you? Remember, someone has probably spent a lot of time trying to get these first words just right.  If it was me, my first thoughts would be that the book was aimed at the children’s market, which is notoriously tough and competitive.  Is this a book likely to break into that market and therefore worth spending time and money on producing and promoting?

Another big question to consider is genre.  The manuscript cover is plain and doesn’t give that away.  Is the book a thriller, a romance, an adventure, or some sort of Roald Dahl mystery with strange fruit, weird aunts, and bizarre monsters – the kind of things kids like?   In fact, how would you imagine the story continues and how does it end.

Well, I won’t hold you in suspense any longer.  You can hear the book being read below.  Why not listen and then decide whether or not you think it could become a best-seller.

Actually, I think you possibly know that answer in advance.  Don’t you?

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