It goes by many names.

The hook. The ignition. The disturbance. The launch (my personal favorite).

Aside from the book cover and blurb (also known as back cover copy), many people look at a novel’s beginning to decide if it’s worth their time. I usually go through at least the first couple of pages, but given the hundreds of thousands of eBooks out there, an increasing number of readers (and book reviewers) use that first paragraph as the test that makes or breaks the sale.

That’s right. One paragraph.

How many sentences are usually in the first paragraph? Two? Maybe three?

If the words don’t grab them by then, they’re gone. Swipe. On to the next.

Yes, it’s a cruel world for the writer but that’s the gig. And really, would we want it any other way? This is passion, after all. That fire that fuels you through the doubt, the rejection, the Herculean effort required to chisel words onto the page day after day with the nagging anxiety that maybe none of them are any good. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re doing it wrong.

Obviously the importance of the first paragraph is not news but I think just how important it is gets lost among the many other aspects of writing and publishing an author endures to get their work to market.

Thus, I’m starting a new series on the blog entitled “Mission Control”. In the same way the launch of a rocket must have the escape velocity to avoid crashing to Earth, a book must start with enough force to capture a reader.


Want to test the mettle on that first paragraph of your published book or Work In Progress? I offer myself as Flight Director. My assessment will be posted here on the blog to give your WIP or book some extra exposure. Just like my book reviews, I promise tactful evaluation and suggestions. If you’d prefer to remain anonymous, let me know.

E-mail that first paragraph along with your city of residence to FineFablesPress@gmail.com. Don’t worry about titles if you don’t have one.

Worried someone might steal your idea if you post it here? An author much wiser than me once said, “Don’t be precious. Ideas are everywhere. Turning them into a 300 page book is what’s hard.” I’ve been guilty of this fear myself, but he’s right. This is a field that requires feedback and I’m happy to offer mine to any who ask for it.