Nightspell Week: The Journey of First Lines

Today, Leah Cypess is here to give an inside peek on how the first line of Nightspell grew from the day it was inspired to the soon-to-be-published version next Tuesday. Because it wasn't a BAM-AMAZING-IDEA moment, but a journey over the span of many years. But I'll let Leah explain that herself...

If you want to find out more about Leah, you can check out her about me page here.


The first first line of Nightspell was written when I was seventeen years old and at summer camp, in a spiral-bound blue notebook:

Here be ghosts.

I then wrote about a third of a book, a murder mystery set in a kingdom where the dead returned as ghosts to take vengeance on their killers. By the time summer was over, I had bogged down the story in so many unnecessary complications that I had no idea what to do with it next. So I put the blue notebook away and started something new.

Eleven years later, I pulled it out, read through it, and started again. With a new first line:

The ghost was watching them from behind a tree.

The story progressed better this time, and before long (if by “long” you mean “two years”) it had become a workable first draft. One day, I rode my bike to a nearby lake to work on the story, but the day was so gorgeous that I ended up writing a description of the lake instead. That description turned into a new prologue for my manuscript, the first line of which was:

She shouldn’t have been there.

Finally, the manuscript was ready for my critique group, Critters ( One of the things I love about critters is that you get critiques from a variety of people who haven’t seen each other’s comments, which makes it easy to decide which comments need to be addressed. A number of these people independently told me two things. First, that the prologue gave away too much. And second, the beginning seemed slow.

So literally days before sending it in to my agent, I took out the prologue and rewrote the first scene, changing the first line to:

Darri didn’t see the ghost until he was upon her, a solid weight that dropped from the branches above and threw her sideways off the saddle.

And so it remains!


Thanks, Leah!

In terms of first lines, some authors go the humor route, some go for the shock factor, but my personal favorites are always the ones that start off with the action or paint things out stroke-by-stroke by stunning detail. And I think Nightspell's first line and prologue definitely fall in the former. :)

Your turn: What do you think of Nightspell's first lines? What kind of first lines are your favorite? (If you entered the Nightspell giveaway, you can comment here for an extra entry!)