The Winner of The First Line Fiesta

Nov 03, 2019

 Viva La Fiesta!

We had 75 entries from our member writers to the First Line Fiesta, our competition to find the most appealing first line of a novel in progress. (Read some of the most famous first lines of all time).

The standard was very high with high-scoring entries mostly from our writers either now with agents or on second drafts, taking The Big Edit, poised on the brink of bagging agents and publishing contracts. But we had one or two surprises from our first drafters!

Voting has been one member, one vote, and a first past the post system. Given the range of lines and the quality of the prose, I was surprised to see clustered results around a few front runners.

A contest like this is a bit of a beauty parade. The lines that stand out most boldly will secure votes. And the contestants don't have the opportunity to impress their judges with their plans for world peace as with our Firestarter Competition in February for the best first chapter.

But a great first line is a sure sign of a good novel behind it - we explore this in our creative writing courses. It's far from 'random', or 'lucky'. The first lines have been considered thousands of times over for inveiglement and allure but they are also flags being planted on new territory. The writer claims the ground of their theme and makes their pledge or promise to the reader - here's what it's all about. The tone promises a ride worth taking.

As a side note, many entries promised an end of world experience. Perhaps that speaks for the times in which we live?

We had two contestants whose first lines were neck and neck throughout the voting, and strong runners up. The votes clustered around a handful of opening sentences. The sentences garnering most votes - were in no wise accidental lucky winners, l can tell you that these lines gained many votes. Not one or two, but many.

Please play the video above for the big reveal!


The Winner and Runners Up.

The opening sentence which won the competition is a personal favourite of mine, and though I did not vote, I would have chosen this. It's so darn coy and says so much.

Many of you will have seen my coy use of that phrase ('many of you') at our group with a wink and a nod to Tracey Emerson because since I first read that line, knowing her story well and it's slyly brilliant premise, it's amused me and stayed with me. (Hearing Tracey read this chapter aloud at our February residential retreat was a great treat.) So I am delighted that Tracey Emerson is the well-deserved winner of the First Line Fiesta at The Novelry.

1st. Tracey Emerson ...

Many of you will know me as the victim of a terrible crime.


Joint 2nd. Gilli Fryzer.

Gilli Fryzer who won the MirOnline Folk Tale Festival competition this year came second fielding this tender, and evocative sentence. 

The end of the world began with a flake of snow.


Joint 2nd. Gabrielle Mclaughlin:

Well done to Gabs for her first sentence - joint second with Gilli - which is the opening to a fascinating novel which we enjoyed hearing her read on the February residential course earlier this year.


There was once a thin country blessed with a long name.


Many votes clustered around the opening sentences of these further runners up :

Sally (Sara) Bailey:

Dad’s under the stairs - I didn’t know what else to do with him - it was fine when it was just Mum, but now they’re both there I keep tripping over them when I go to get the hoover.

Katie Khan:

Let me tell you how the world used to be.

Aprajita Agnihotri:

Beware, reader; this story begins and ends with death.

Jane Tingle:

She brought me back to life on Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass.

Jacquie Morrison:

I must insist upon requesting three month's salary in advance if Madam is genuinely desirous of electrocuting herself in a bath of Chardonnay.


So, what lessons can we learn here?

  • Keep it succinct and sassy. Don't go for complex constructions and descriptive sub-clauses with commas and hyphens. No passive constructions - ie "Having..." Short and sweet and tidy for top marks.
  • Own your voice. Go with it. Give us a strong flavour of the treatment you intend.
  • Be coy, turn a wee paradox if you can with opposing or unlikely thoughts. A cute concept.


Happy Trails.

To those of you joining us for The Bridport Retreat, this week have a very safe journey and we can't wait to see you very soon. We look forward to five days of blissful, undisturbed writing in luxurious seclusion with wonderful home-cooked food and evening fireside readings ... and an invigorating session with your tutor to get that story straight!

Both our November retreat (The Bridport) and our February 2020 course (The Full English) sold out quite quickly. Bag your place in writer's heaven for November 2020 and February 2021 now and secure the easy payment plans now. Avoid the most bitter of disappointments.

There's a reason The Telegraph names us one of the top ten creative writing holidays in the world! Find out more about our Writer's Retreats.



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