The first sentence is a promise

The first sentence of a book is like the air between mouths just before a first kiss. It’s a promise.

It fills you up, yet makes you want more. It’s the precise combination of slight humidity and warmth that takes your hand and invites you in for tea.

Readers open your book, glance at page one and decide if they want to read more. So how do you make them say yes?

The goal of that first sentence is not to entice someone to read your entire book. It’s to get them curious enough to read the next sentence. And the second sentence should make them want to read the third. The third should lead them to the fourth. (You get the idea.)

Some of the best first lines ever written do exactly that.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. – —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. – Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

The only thing particularly interesting about a first sentence is that it has the distinction of being first. So, yeah, it’s important in that it should bring intrigue. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just write it so your reader wants to know what happens next. (Because why read on if the sentence goes nowhere?)

Make it interesting. Lure your reader to ogle the sentence being pulled behind the first. Spill details so that your reader starts asking questions. Make her wonder what happens next. And then tell her.

Withholding information is the single biggest mistake most writers make. It leaves the reader confused and aggravated – and then she stops reading. Give her the information, gently, in bite-size chunks. Never all at once.

The best books make us feel as though we’re walking into a story already underway. In just a few lines, we understand these characters have a believable, tangible past and we are now catching up to what will be the most interesting part of their lives.

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. – Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

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. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye 

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Keep it simple. But make us want more.

What are some of your favorite first lines? Leave ’em in the comments.

P.S. Since this post went out (about 15 minutes ago), my email has blown up with first lines from YOUR work. If you want me to take a look – and I am happy to – leave those in the comments as well. We can learn from each other.


Want tolearn more about writing like YOU? I’m polishing a new product that will teach you exactly that. Join our subscriber list (upper right-hand corner) to hear more about it and get a discount when it’s released.


I said yes

For a species who wants so badly to feel empowered and inspired, we humans spend a lot of time telling ourselves no.

No, I’ll pass on girls’ night. I have to get up early.

No, I can’t lock myself in my office to write for an hour a day. I have too much to do.

No, I can’t have a cookie. I’m trying to lose weight.

By now, my thoughts on the excuses we contrive to deprive ourselves have likely become a tired cliché.

That’s crap.

I spend the majority of my days telling my clients it’s okay to reward yourself for fulfilling your writing goals. You earned it. It’s okay to take time to follow your dream. It’s important to pursue the thing that’s been in your head since third grade. It’s criminal NOT to go after what you want with both hands.

It got me thinking. How many times a day do we hear no? How many do we say it? And how are we often hurting ourselves by doing that?

I said NO to starting this business for two years. I said NO to writing my books for decades. I came up with oodles of excuses that all boiled down to one thing.


But as soon as I said yes, as soon as I acknowledged the fear – of failure, not having an audience, not making enough money to survive, and plenty of others – then did the thing that scared me anyway, everything changed.

Three books, including a #1 Amazon Bestseller. A highly successful business that allows me to do what I love with people I adore. I’ve met and befriended people all over the world who also learned to say yes. Their experiences, their knowledge pushed me further, faster than I ever could have imagined.

And here I stand.

As a writing coach, my goal every day is to inspire you writers to say what you need to say, how you want to say it. I can’t think of a better way to do that than Project Yes.

It’s a new interview series about the power of YES coming to you on May 1st.

We’re talking to amazing biz and life badasses – featured in Forbes and Inc., for example – like Erika Napoletano, Christie Mims, Share Ross, Nikki Groom, Desiree Wolfe and Kimberly Bordonaro, and 20+ more, about …

What happens when you don’t let your fear stop you anymore?

Stay tuned for details, and check out the teaser video below.

Thank you, Michael Xavier for your divine expertise on all things video.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for Project Yes, head on over here and reach out.


Stay in the loop about Project YES, and a new product I’m building that will teach you how to write like YOU. Join our subscriber list (upper right-hand corner) to be the first to hear more about both.