Poets and Writers: First Sentence Excerpts


PWlogosmall-2-1-2_smallThere are few things as compelling as the first sentence of a great book. When done well, its power is absolute: it virtually commands you to read on, to invest in the story, to search for more clues about the characters, the setting, the conflict.

For many aspiring writers, the first sentence of their first serious novel can be a kind of torture. You know it’s hugely important, but you also have a full story to tell. So what do you do? You tear through your bookcase, yanking out your favorite tomes to see again how they begin, hoping upon hope that inspiration will arrive in the process.

Now, thanks to a content partnership with Poets & Writers (the organization, which publishes the magazine), you can get your inspiration delivered to you monthly right here. Page One, a regular feature in Poets & Writers magazine, presents a smattering of first sentences from newly released books. Here’s a quick selection:

  • "Val Carmichael credited Pete Stenning—who was always called ‘the Martian'—with getting him off the gin and on to the vodka." Liver: A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes (Bloomsbury, November 2009) by Will Self.

  • "I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967." Invisible (Henry Holt, November 2009) by Paul Auster.

  • “In the beginning, Drago smelled of dirt and bloom, the odor that would rise if you peeled the earth back at its seams." Thirsty (Swallow Press, October 2009) by Kristin Bair O'Keeffe.

Check out more at Poets & Writers, then add your favorite—from books new or old—in the comments area below to help inspire your fellow WEbookers.


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  1. José Sottomayor28 October 2009 at 07:04

    Hello World!!!
    fill your hands with love
    fill your soul with hope
    feel the morning shinning
    feel the future coming
    José Sottomayor (Portugal)

  2. Jerry L Abrahamson29 October 2009 at 04:05

    I have a poetry book that I am trying to get loaded up so that I can start selling books and am not having any luck loading the book up. Can you help me out?


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