The first cut is the deepest…

So states the title of a Cat Stevens song. To paraphrase it, the first line in a story is the hardest. It will help determine the direction of your story. Where does one start? How much does one have to write before you realize, damn, that’s the wrong direction. Then you have to go back and start all over again. Creating a first line that grabs the reader is one of the biggest obstacles a writer faces. “It was a dark and stormy night…” Uh-uh, I don’t think so.

It may be the reason why so many stories/books are started and go either absolutely nowhere or downhill fast. My own file on these stillborn ideas grows large. Could it be the fault of a bad first line? Or was it just a lousy idea? Or both?

On the other hand, I’ve written, what I think are, some really great first lines only to have them sink upon review into the tar pit of my imagination. Yet, there may be hope.

Nowhere is it written that one or several of these ideas may not be revisited, even salvaged into something readable. It might be a hell of lot better than its crappy first line.

But how do you know if it’s any good? Initially, you may not. Go back and review it periodically. Does it relate to the story you’re now writing? Will it intrigue the reader to soldier on through your book? Or should you table that project and start a new one?

There’s nothing wrong with that but now you have to find a new first line.