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Know Jack #315 For Starters

The longest journey begins with a single step.

I meet a fair number of people who tell me that they have always wanted to write. I enjoy encouraging them to give it a try. Whether they succeed or fail at writing, for me, it is a win-win opportunity and I have a selfish reason for doing this.

If they succeed, there is a prospective new author for my publishing company and a new book to read. If they fail, not that I wish this, but hopefully, they will gain a new respect for the authors they read. The secret to success is that first sentence. This is true for a couple of reasons.

Every literary masterpiece began with the author writing that first sentence. The sentence you read in the final work may not be the one they wrote the first time, but until you sit down and write those first words, there will never be a book. Writers write.

Of course, the first sentence is a fleeting thing. It comes around new every single morning and every time you get up to do something else there’s a new first sentence to write.

Believe me, the power of the blank page is strong. It can mesmerize you into simply sitting and staring at it until you quit. It will crush you if you let it. The only talisman powerful enough to break the spell is the first written sentence.

But there’s another reason the first sentence is powerful. It is what writers call The Hook. The magical words that reach off the page, grab the reader by the collar, and scream, “Hey! Hold my beer and watch this!”

I don’t believe there are any experts except the reader. The secret is to know the right bait for your hook by knowing your reader. I googled the 100 best first lines. I only agreed with 4 and none of them among my favorites except Melville’s “Call me Ishmael.”

This is one of my favorites because of the way my mind works. “Call me Ishmael” triggered a host of questions like why call you Ishmael? what’s your real name and why are you hiding it? What’s your story?

Do you have a story to tell? It begins with a sentence—get started.


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