Write Novel's First Line To Guarantee Sales

Start your writing with conflict if you want to guarantee sales, grab an agent or publisher, get paid a big advance. Your protagonist wants something and your antagonist wants to block it. If you want to be the publisher's star-of-the-month, just hand out a strong dose of conflict right up front. Bold like. Then, they're wrapped up in your story and it's too late for them to escape. Trust me, readers, agents and publishers are going to consider writing with a strong dose of conflict as good fortune for their company. Readers will not want to put it down. The big boys just might pat you on the head and pay you a six-figure advance.

As conflict is so essential to good writing, whether it's fiction, or nonfiction, children's books or memoir, it will aid your attention-getting cause. I suggest you start practicing the art of writing conflict right now for your openings. Read the examples and write your own:

· James walked in ready to crash and that's when he saw the monster. (Antagonist wants to take protagonist's calm time away)

· When I walked in, Emily had on my favorite blouse I was going to wear tonight. She stood there trying to apologize for tearing it.(Antagonist has blocked protagonist from wearing her favorite blouse tonight.)

· Jimmy worked ten hours at ten dollars an hour, and now John was saying he was worthless, he wasn't going to pay. (John wants to take Jimmy's earning away).

The sentences are off the top of my head and I don't consider them profound or anything. But remember, my job is to make all of the big, foreign sounding things simple. My sentences clearly show characters in conflict. You can "feel" the tension. Your protagonist wants something and your antagonist wants to take it away. Your antagonist may not even be a person. It may be a rock against the door, keeping your protagonist from escaping the bad guy.

In my novel, The Mayor's Wife Wore Sapphires, the mayor's young wife wants to change the image of an inner city by making it the Black Camelot; her antagonists want to destroy the incubator idea that could make that happen.

It is conflict that grabs the reader's attention. Eighty percent of all readers continue to read because of conflict. If there is no conflict, the story lies flat on the page, it falls apart and loses the reader's interest. It's yawning-kind-of dull. When conflict is present, readers perk up and wade through bad syntax, misspelled words, structure flaws, and bland dialogue to find out how the conflict ends. I'm not suggesting that you neglect any part of the writing craft, though. It's just that conflict is one of the strongest elements of good writing, and all too often we lose the reader's attention because we neglect that writing tool.

So, when you want to grab an editor, an agent, or a publisher's favor, just allow them to feast on gripping conflict from the very first line and see your story rises through the slush pile to increased sales.

In the Mayor's Wife Wore Sapphires, the story opens with two unknown characters, whispering in what seems like a clandestine place. The host balls the newspaper in rage and throws it on the dark wood table. We see that it states: Council Upset Rumored. Now the guest thrust his head out of the shadows and says that "In my country, his kind disappears without a trace." He wants to take out the mayor; his opposition wants to fix the situation before the council meeting.

In The End Justifies The Means, the protagonist, Jalen, is trying to sleep; his mother and father are having a violent argument. He wants them to stop it; they get louder.

In the Color Purple, Celie's baby is happy for giving birth to her baby; the antagonist, her father, is taking the baby to give her away. She is screaming, "No!" The father is already gone.

Agents and publishers are trained to recognize conflict, and they look for it. So take advantage of that now. Write conflict in your first line for practice.