Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The point in time or space at which something starts.

Beginnings are hard, but finishing is harder.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

They say the beginning of a book has to hook the reader. It has to want them to keep reading.
I agree. If it takes too long for a book to grab my interest, I stop reading. Not always, but most of the time. What about you?

I just competed in a competition on Writing for Children and Teens blog about beginnings. You send in your first 125 words, then your next 250 words until you get the red light. I stepped up to the 5th round before I got eliminated.

I just finished reading a couple of books. Here are their beginnings:

What The Mood Said by Gayle Rosengren
Esther planted her feet on the curb. Her older sister Violet tugged at her arm and said, "Come on! We're going to be late for the matinee."
But Esther wouldn't budge - not until a streetcar had clattered past and the street was empty in both directions.
"Ma said to be extra careful today," she reminded Violet as she finally stepped off the curb and crossed the street. "She saw a ring around the moon last night. That means something bad is going to happen."

Ice Dogs by Terri Lynn Johnson
All eight of my dogs are stretched in front of me in pairs along the gangline. They claw the ground in frustration as the loudspeaker blares.
"Here's team number five. Our hometown girl, fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord!"
A male voice booms out my racing stats while my lead dog, Bean, whips his crooked rat tail. He tries to lunge forward, and then catches my eye and screams with a pitch that shoots up my spinal cord and electrifies my teeth.

Can you tell by their beginnings what the books are going to be about? Did their beginning draw you in and make you want to read more?

Some books go against the rules and are still popular. What are the rules?

The Blood Red Pencil blogged one time about The Top 25 Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected. Go here to see this post.

#9 states The opening contained the phrases, "My name is..." and/or "My age is..."

Of course, there are exceptions. One of my favorite books (Because of Winn-Dixie) starts this way: My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.

What are some of your favorite book beginnings? Does a book have to grab you in order to keep you reading?

I am sure this favorite spot of mine had a small beginning a long, long time ago. But look at it now! Our writing can do the same. From its beginning, our story can grow into something grand.
Just remember - you have to finish it.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Bush.



  1. Interesting post, Janet. Yes, a good beginning will keep me reading. Like you say, there are exceptions, and I usually read at least the first chapter. I seldom give up on a book. Stubborn I guess. :) A few times I've stopped reading though.

    1. I also like for a book to have a good ending.

  2. The beginning is important, but I don't like what I call "outrageous" first lines, either. By that I mean those that try way too hard to be hooks.

    1. Right Marcia - and the rest of the story has to live up to the beginning, so that you keep reading.

  3. What a great post! Beginning are important and I love when I come across one that breaks the rules and still works. I enjoyed Because of Winn-Dixie- and I don't think I even noticed that the beginning went against the rules. :)

    Great photo and reminder that amazing things have to start somewhere. :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Jess - and the photo.

  4. I'm a stubborn reader and will stick with a book at least fifty pages. Few books are laid aside unfinished by me. That said, I do love a great beginning. The book I'll review on my blog tonight, Shane, has a great beginning, but it's not the first line or paragraph, but the first couple pages. Ice Dogs is my next read. I loved Because of Winn-Dixie. I haven't read What the Moon Said, but will put it on my TBR list. Thanks for an interesting post.


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