The first 16 lines

The first page of a novel is about 16 manuscript lines long. Common lore among agents and editors is that a writer has that amount of space to hook the reader. If the reader isn’t hooked on the first page, then he won’t turn the page.

There are lots of ways to hook a reader. Whether you do it with action or description, the important thing is that something… story questions, voice, something… compels the reader to keep going.

I’m not sure my first 16 lines do that though. What do you think? Would you turn the page?

Lucas crept to the edge of the field and listened. Nothing — nothing close anyway. Maybe he’d lost him. He grunted. Fat chance.

Which way now? Blackberries snarled the fence between him and the woods. The creek? No, that’s the first place he’d search. Lucas hesitated, then darted back the way he came, getting only a few feet before rustling in a stand of cattails to his left sent him diving to the ground. He tried to make himself small in a patch of lank brown grass and wished he’d tried for the woods.

Footsteps splashed through the water, paused, then angled sharply back into the field. The footfalls came even faster — he’d been seen. He sprinted forward, but got only one step before two paws planted against his shoulder and sent him sprawling.

Flat on his belly, spitting grass out of his mouth, he had two thoughts. One, this spot of ground was altogether too squishy, which meant mud. His mom was going to kill him. And two, the dog sitting on his back weighed as much as Isabel Cutter, the girl who had knocked him down and tried to kiss him at school last summer.

He looked over his shoulder and got a glimpse of a lolling pink tongue and white teeth before the beast dropped and began bathing his face. Lucas snorted and choked and buried his face in his arms.

“You got me! You don’t have to drown me.” At least, he decided, pushing the dog off, Mouse was a better kisser than Izzy.

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