First Lines from First to Final Draft

I’m sure we all know the importance of first lines: they’re the first impression, the first chance to hook your reader, the first breath of the baby you’ve labored over for months.

start line

They’re the curtain whipping away from the stage, the gun shot signaling the start of the race, the … you get the idea.

We thought it would be interesting to reveal our first lines over here at the BookYard–from both the first AND final drafts of our debut books. Would our FIRST-first lines stay with us, surviving the firestorm of revision? Or would something completely different take their place?

Ready? Set? Go!

First line of SALT, by Danielle Ellison: 

First draft: “Gran always told us not to leave home without salt in our pocket.”

Final draft (That you can get right now ahh!): “Gran always told us not to leave home without salt in our pocket.”

Comments: Yes, it’s exactly the same! It’s the first/only book I’ve written where the first line/chapter has never changed. But it’s not the same with other stories.

First line of FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, by Danielle Ellison:

First draft: “I freeze, listening for the echo of a footstep.”

Final draft: “All I’ve ever wanted is freedom, but I never imagined it would be like this.”

Comments: FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS had eight first lines. (One for each draft/rewrite/revision before I sold.) I had a really big problem trying to figure out where the story actually started, because it was such a huge story. I love the new first line now! It’s completely the tone and theme of the book. :)

First line of DREAM BOY, by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg:

First draft (or close to first draft): “It was the perfect June evening for the perfect June wedding and my cousin Heather, the perfect bride, was puffed up like a frosted pastry in her wedding gown. The vows had been said, the unity candle lit, and now we were scattered around the reception hall, stuffing our faces with sweet-and-sour chicken and bits of cheese molded into the shape of doves.” (Ok, I know that’s two sentences.)

Final draft: “Will found me by the river.”

Comments: Madelyn and I ended up cutting the first chapter of DREAM BOY in revisions. There are a ton of quirky details in that lost chapter–and we really didn’t want to cut it–but ultimately it was one of those darlings that just needed to die. But if I ever have to write a wedding scene for some future project, you can bet I’m going to try to work in cheese shaped like doves.

First line of GILDED, by Christina Farley:

First draft: “The concrete steps yawn before me and stretch all the way up to the museum.”

Final draft: “Stillness fills the empty stage as I press the horn bow to my body and notch an arrow.”

Comments: Basically, I deleted the whole scene of Jae Hwa walking into the museum with her parents and setting up to practice. For the final draft, not only did I start the story later, but I also ‘killed off’ the mom. The key was tightening so I was only keeping necessary scenes and necessary characters.

First line of WORDLESS, by AdriAnne Strickland:

First draft: “I’d heard the story when I was a kid—everyone had, even wordless nobodies like me.”

Final draft (+ second sentence): “I’d heard the story when I was a kid. Everyone had, even wordless nobodies like me, who had never set foot in any of Eden City’s cathedrals.”

Comments: You’ll notice that not much changed, other than my attempt to reign in some of my em dashes (I’m totally em dash-happy), which then left me room to add more detail in the (now) second sentence.

First line of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, by Rin Chupeco:

First draft: “I am the paths dead girls travel.”

Final draft: “I am where dead children go.”

Comments: Not only did I decide to go for ambiguity to sound more profound, but also made my protagonist an equal opportunity avenger.

First line of A MURDER OF MAGPIES, by Sarah Bromley:

First draft: “A lone tuft of ash wanders through the air.”

Final draft: “I always swore Jonah would blow our cover, and today looked ideal for a catastrophe.”

Comments: Not only was A MURDER OF MAGPIES originally in present tense, it also had a prologue that took place two years before the bulk of the book. MAGPIES had been put away for a while before I brought it back out after I signed with my agent, and when I ngave it to Miriam, I’d already nixed that prologue and changes tenses from present to past. In the final draft, Vayda’s troubles are more immediate, and she’s not at all happy with her brother, Jonah. But if you look hard enough, you’ll see a version of that first original line somewhere in the book.

First line of BETWEEN SISTERS, by Trisha Leaver: 

First draft: “My phone buzzed across my nightstand, jarring me from the sketch pad I had open across my lap.”

Final draft: “I don’t remember her room being so cold. Even snuggled into her sweater the chill seeps in, settling into my bones like a whisper from beyond.”

Comments: Technically the first sentence of chapter one hasn’t changed. However, a prologue was added, hence changing the first line the reader will see!

First line of CREED, by Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver:

First draft: The car rolled to a stop on the side of the dirt road. I swore, frustrated that I opted to leave my jacket at home rather than cover up my new shirt.

Final copy: The car rolled to a stop on the side of the dirt road. I swore, frustrated that I’d left my jacket at home rather than cover up my new shirt.

Comments: It didn’t change much at all!

First line of ANOMALY, by Caroline Richmond: 

First draft: “The Nazis always arrived on schedule.”

Final draft: “At four o’clock sharp, I spot a Third Reich cadet flying over the farm.”

Comments: Oh goodness, ANOMALY! The book that nearly broke me. When I first started drafting it in 2011, it was written in first person, present tense. But that wasn’t quite working so my agent suggested a switch to third person past. Through the years, the manuscript has been scrapped and re-written multiple times, including the first line; but I’m pleased with how everything has turned out!

First line of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, by Skylar Dorset:

First draft: “One day, my father walked into his Back Bay apartment to find a blond woman asleep on his couch.”

Final draft: “One day, my father walked into his Back Bay apartment to find a blond woman asleep on his couch.”

Comments: Yup, exactly the same. 🙂 The first sentence of this book was the first image of the book that ever came to me, and it stayed the same the whole time. One of the few things that did!

First line of FALLS THE SHADOW, by Stefanie Gaither:

First draft: “I took some of the flowers from my sister’s funeral, because I thought her replacement might like them as a welcome-to-the-family present. ”

Final draft: “I took some of the flowers from my sister’s funeral, because I thought her replacement might like them as a welcome-to-the-family present.”

Comments: This was the first line that came to me when I started brainstorming the book, and it managed to survive all fifty billion rounds of revision!

First line of THE MERCILESS, by Danielle Vega:

First draft: “A crescent of blood appears below my cuticle and oozes into the cracks surrounding my thumbnail.”

Final draft: “I snag my thumb on the lunch tray’s metal edge and a crescent of blood appears beneath my cuticle.”

Comments: THE MERCILESS is a horror novel, so I knew I wanted to start with blood. As time went on, I honed the sentence to include a little context, but the overall intent is still the same.

First line of THE VIGILANTE POETS OF SELWYN ACADEMY, by Kate Hattemer:

First draft: “We were back to school after the holidays, back to the routine. The school year had settled itself like a fat person into an airplane seat: it wasn’t entirely comfortable, but it would do.”

Final draft: “A Preface-Slash-Disclaimer from Ethan Andrezejczak: Just call me Ethan.”

Comments: I am extremely grateful to my agent and editor. These two lines demonstrate why.


The Year of Launches

So, 2014 finally made it here and for many of the BookYArd writers, this is the year we launch our debut novels. It’s an amazing thought, and one that’s been cycling on a loop in my brain since New Years. The contract for my co-authored YA, CREED, was signed a long time ago and like many of us, for the first several months it didn’t feel real. Yeah, we were making edits and chatting with our editor but everything seemed SO FAR AWAY still. Not now. Now it feels like everyone’s release is just around the corner and the time has come to plan. Covers are being revealed, books are going up on Amazon and swag is being ordered. In other words – IT’S GETTING REAL!


For today’s post, I was hoping the BookYArd writers and other authors to be released in 2014 could share their current publication prep. So, what are you doing right now to prepare for your book’s impending launch? If you’re early in 2014, I’m sure we’d all love to know what your plans are for touring – are you going on a real, physical tour to sign or are you going on a blog tour? Have you created some amazing swag that you can share with us as well as the company you used? Did you decide bookmarks were useless, but bookplates were brilliant? If you’re already procured your launch party location, how did you do that?

I can tell you from my standpoint with my co-author, Trisha Leaver – we’re just in the stages of sorting out some preliminary things. CREED doesn’t release until November, so we’ve got a while to work on this planning. But you know how that goes for all of us…when you’re writing, time can occasionally slip away from you. Right now we’re looking into swag options for CREED as well as beginning to speak at local schools and teen advisory boards about the process of writing and life as an author. While we don’t know what the book launch will be like with two of us in the mix just yet, we’re hoping to have three launch parties. One on the East Coast with Trisha’s peeps, one here in Chicago with mine and then ultimately, one together somewhere bookish and fun.

So – tell us, 2014 debut authors. What are you doing to prepare for your book’s launch?

The Anatomy of a Book Cover – dissecting THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

January 2014 is a big thing for a lot of us here at the BookYArds – what better way to start out the year with a sudden influx of happy, pretty, sparkly book covers for our debuts? But what most people don’t know are the things that goes on behind the scenes. How are book covers born? What kind of planning is involved, from initial conception down to the final reveal?

I can’t speak for every author who’s had a book out, but here’s been my experience so far with my debut, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.

I’ve been very happy to have the awesome people over at Sourcebooks helming my book – I’ve never seen an ugly Sourcebooks cover, and their final treatment of mine was practically perfect, in my opinion.  Here’s the step-by-step process:

1. I knew early on that I won’t have as much say on the book cover at the start, though I was definitely invited to offer my own input if I didn’t like how it looked, or offer suggestions that would be taken into account, but would have no real guarantee  on the final product. This is pretty normal, as most authors signed onto traditional publishing would tell you.

However, if a book cover makes you feel like you want to go out and punch a tree, then you can be very vocal about your dislike, and they will listen.  I’ve known writers who’d been violently opposed to their book covers because of a lot of misleading information it depicts (wrong model for their MC, supporting characters emphasized over MCs, just plain horrible graphics, and more)

2. This is the first book cover treatment I’d ever received for my debut:


Pros: That background! Those birds!

Cons: I wasn’t feeling that font, and not liking the font made the cover look off somehow – like it’s getting there, but there’s something   completely incomplete about the whole look. I was told at this stage that they weren’t satisfied with how my name was featured in, as well.

I’d told my editor and agent at this point that something felt odd about the cover. I was hoping for more subtlety, and I was very thrilled that the designer didn’t choose to go for the girl-looking-mysterious-or-beautifully-dead route, because there were a lot of those  kinds of covers already out on the market that didn’t actually have dead girls in their novels, and I was worried it would no longer stand out. (Also: my protagonist is dead, but not beautifully so.)

3. The second treatment for my cover:


As soon as I saw that beautiful typeface, I knew this was it. See what a difference the right kind of font makes? I was thrilled, my agent was thrilled, and everyone was thrilled that we were thrilled.

4. The final cover:


Some very minor tweaks, and here’s the result!

I think I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways. A lot of other authors have to go through a lot more revisions with their respective publishers before settling on the one they really like, but I was rather pleased with mine!

Writer’s Malaise, and How to Fix It

I suffer from writer’s malaise.

Writer’s block is the noble relative of writer’s malaise. When your plot hits a dead end, when your characters are obstreperous, when your neuroses rear their ugly heads and convince you that every word you’ve ever written is worthless:  that’s writer’s block.  At least you have a reason not to be writing.

Writer’s malaise, also known as Don’t Wanna Disease, is much less acceptable. In other professions, I’ve found, Don’t Wanna Disease is cured by necessity. Don’t wanna shelve books? Your manager might have some other ideas. Don’t wanna write lesson plans? Well, have fun improvising a lecture on gerundives to thirty teenagers whose arsenal of bored expressions could, if transformed into actual weaponry, take down a small nation-state.

But when a writer don’t wanna make up stuff, she can soon find herself, hypothetically speaking, reading about the Mariana Trench on Wikipedia, or seeing whether she can still scratch her nose with her feet, the way she could when she was six. (Hypothetically.)

I’m still frequently Writer’s Ma-Lazy, but here are three strategies that have worked for me.

The Pavlovian Bach Response

This one takes some groundwork, but it’s one of the best tools I have.  When I was revising my second book for my agent, I had a strict and self-imposed deadline:  I was heading off to northern Minnesota to be a wilderness camp counselor for the summer, and I knew there’d be no time for writing.  During hours of intense concentration, I listened to Bach’s concertos for double violin.  Upon my return, I found that whenever I heard this music, my fingers would twitch, my gaze would focus, and I’d actually want to write.  (Really!)  When I’m really stuck, I put on this album.  I only use it about once a month, since I’m worried the magic will wear off, but it never fails.

Your plan:  when you’re already feeling focused, turn on some music that you won’t hear under other circumstances.  After a while, you’ll start to associate it with writing well.  (Maybe.  I make no promises.)

The Sprint-Write

  1. Choose a task that seems just as dreadful as writing.  (I chose running.)
  2. Dress appropriately for Loathsome Task.  You will be marked down for excessively long transitions.  If you require rubber gloves, you can leave those off for the time being.
  3. Set your timer for fifteen minutes.  Write like a maniac.
  4. When the timer rings, do NOT finish your paragraph, sentence, thought, or word.  Leap up.  Perform one chunk of Loathsome Task.  (I ran a mile, but you could clean one toilet, feed one neglected pet, open one piece of mail…)
  5. Repeat steps (3) and (4) until you achieve desired word count, mileage, or level of domestic hygiene.

Utter Distraction

I’m used to writing in my silent apartment. You might call me sensitive to light and sound. (You might also, if you are an enemy or sibling of mine, call me persnickety.) However, if only 20% of my brain is writing and the other 80% is planning my next snack and nurturing professional envy — well, it’s time to leave the house.

One of my most productive drafting days came in a coffeeshop, right next to two women in yoga gear.  The one wearing slightly more lululemon was interviewing the one wearing slightly less lululemon for a job at — who called it? — lululemon.  With 80% of my brain, I eavesdropped.  I learned True Lu’s favorite Cincinnati spin studio,  Aspirational Lu’s passion for trendy overpriced spandex, and where both Lus saw themselves in five years. (Hint: still wearing trendy overpriced spandex.) With the remaining 20% of my brain, I spewed first draft like projectile vomit.

Your plan: scope out chatty people.  Annex the table next to them. Turn off your internal voice that’s screaming at them to shut up, and remind yourself that you have chosen to be there. Take some deep, yogic breaths. Perhaps the Lus could help with this.

You may begin.

Cover Reveal for YA Psychological Horror CREED


November, 2014 from Flux

About the Authors:

author pic 1 Trisha Leaver resides on Cape Cod with her husband, three children and one rather excitable black lab. She spent most of her childhood living inside her own mind, creating characters and stories that only a child’s imagination could dream up. She now spends her days breathing life into those characters, writing realistic fiction for young adults. Today, Trisha is a free-lance editor and a proud member of the SCBWI, YA Scream Queens, The Horror Writers Association, TheBookYards, and OneFourKidLit, a community of authors with debuts upcoming in 2014. More information about her solo and co-authored projects can be found at the links below.





lindsay author photo

Lindsay Currie lives in Chicago, Illinois with one incredibly patient hubby, three amazing kids and one adorable, but irreverent Bullmastiff named Sam. She graduated from Knox College in the heart of the Midwest and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is a freelance editor for young adult, new adult and middle grade fiction, and is a proud member of SCBWI, The Horror Writers Association, The YA Scream Queens, The BookYard and OneFourKidLit, a community of authors with debuts upcoming in 2014.





Dee Langley is seventeen and mere months away from total freedom and a life where state social workers, counselors, and foster parents don’t dictate her every move. She has spent years trying to eke out a normal existence, hiding from her past and walking the tenuous line between denial and self-preservation. A weekend away with her boyfriend, Luke, and his brother, Mike, seems like the perfect opportunity to forget and start over. Little does Dee know that she’s just trading one hell for another.

When an unexpected storm and a lack of gas force their car off the road, Dee, Luke, and Mike find themselves with no other choice but to wander into the nearby town of Purity Springs for help. But it’s not good Samaritans they find, but rather complete and utter silence, every store and every house abandoned. Forced to seek shelter in one of the deserted homes, they uncover a disturbing book with explicit instructions on how to correctly rear a child, complete with a hand written record of its use. It’s not until the next morning, however, that they discover the alarming truth – the town isn’t abandoned; it is populated by a deadly cult, and the leader, Elijah Hawkins, has plans for the three of them. The group’s only hope for survival lies in the hands of Elijah’s son, Joseph. But is Joseph really their ticket to freedom or is his game just as deadly as his father’s?

Pre-order on Amazon                                                                                                        ISBN-13: 978-0738740805

Mark it to read on Goodreads

Vote for it on the 2014 DebutAuthors Challenge:

AND NOW…THE COVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Creed final cover

14 Random Things With Danielle Ellison

Hello everyone! I’m pretty excited to be here at the BookYArd. I love reading books while sitting in the grass with some iced coffee and good friends, so this is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s going to be a fun year!

In honor of my first post, I’m going tell you 14 random things about myself (or whatever I think of as I’m filling in this list!)

1. I am a fangirl. I love TV shows, music, books, everything! I really love my TV shows and they are my sanity.

2. Book quote that I love: “Certainly it would be wonderful if we all knew exactly who we were. But that knowledge doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside.” ~Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (page 282)

3.  This clip makes me laugh EVERY. TIME. (Pivot!)

4.  I have a lot of jobs. (It’s exhausting and hopefully not forever.) I’m a bookseller at an indie store, an editor, teach classes theater to kids, work as a morning nanny to put kids on the school bus and there’s writing.

5. I love love love London, and I wish I could be British. 

I took this! 🙂









6.  The sound of E.T. walking was made by someone squishing her hands in jelly. (You’re welcome for that life-changing fact.)

7. I have had (approximately/at least) 29 addresses in my life. 

8.  Salt is the title of my book — and a handy item to have around. Need proof? Well, here’s my book and here’s 60 ways to use salt. (You’re welcome again.)

9. I hate the…ellipsisMostly because writers misuse them (ie. the way I did it was just wrong!) and they tend to act as crutch instead of the purpose they were made for! I can rant on this forever, but here’s a breakdown. 9b. In related news: I love em-dashes. I have to edit them out because of overuse! 

10.  I’m such a fangirl (see #1) that I went to a glorious convention and met all my favorite actors from Supernatural. They were pretty, nice, and smelled really, really, really good.


11. I could survive off of pizza and cereal. Gluten-free, of course.

12. I can’t pronounce the word “color” vs “collar.” It’s weird because I know the difference, know the difference in the meaning, know how they sound when other people say them, but I can’t say them differently.

13. I hate blue pens! (I like black pens or fun colors.) However, if I’m using a yellow notepad, then I only like blue. It’s weird; I know.

2013-12-18 11.24.20

14. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But I know that one day I will figure it all out.

And now you know a little about me.  Share some of your own random facts in the comments/online!  I’m on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

Behind the Cover of DREAM BOY

When I first saw the cover for Dream Boy,  I was stunned.

In a great way… the best way. Stunned. I’m not sure I breathed for a full minute. I could feel my eyes literally widen and my jaw literally drop. I was like a caricature for the word “Whoa!”

Now, after keeping it to myself for eons (or at least a few months that felt like eons), I am thrilled to announce that my coauthor Madelyn Rosenberg and I will be sharing our gorgeous cover with the world for the first time!

DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg

Pretty, no?

I especially love the way dreamlike elements combine with folklore here. Like the small southern town where the novel is set, Dream Boy is edged by wilderness, mysticism and mystery. The bottle tree on the cover perfectly captures the novel’s mix of dream and nightmare.

So what is a bottle tree?

You southerners probably already know. It’s a sort of ancient folk-magic practice intended to capture evil spirits. The idea was that “haints” would become trapped in the bottles at night and could be sent off down the river come daybreak.

In Dream Boy , the bottle tree creates a connection point between the real world and what lies beyond.

I want to give a big thanks to Sourcebooks creative services manager Adrienne Krogh, designer Eileen Carey, and marketer extraordinaire Abbie Digel for their vision and hard work thoughout this process.

Before starting out, I’d heard horror stories about cover disasters–especially for new authors. People told me that we wouldn’t have any input at any stage of the cover creation of selection, and that my job as an author was just to keep my mouth shut.

What I found at Sourcebooks, though, was the quite another story. Their team started the conversation by asking us what we envisioned on the cover–and then proceeded to develop the design according to one of our suggestions. Everyone was amazingly responsive and supportive throughout the entire process, from that first brainstorming for ideas to their help in celebrating the cover’s release!

So, without further ado, starting Saturday, here is where you’ll be able to find Dream Boy‘s cover in all its glory:

1/18/2014 – Tome Tender and What’s Beyond Forks

1/19/2014 – Mundie Moms

1/20/2014 – Paranormal Book Club and Book Twirps

1/21/2014 – Wondrous Reads and The Bookish DayDreamer

1/22/2014 – The Book Mark

1/23/2014 – Jessabella Reads 

1/24/2014 – Winter Haven Books

1/25/2014 – Young Adult Book Haven and Book Fairy’s Haven
and Teen Fire Giveaway

1/26/2014 – My Guilty Obsession

1/27/2014 – Read Your Bookcase

1/28/2014 – Just Heard Read Seen

1/29/2014 – Book Addict 24/7

2/1/2014    Aleksandra’s Corner

… oh yes, and at the BookYArd of course!