Friday, 26 June 2015

UV 2016 - Killer Opening Lines Quiz!

Edge Author Katie Dale on the competition that launched her own writing career, and how to write that killer opening line

Submissions for Undiscovered Voices 2016 are OPEN!! 
Undiscovered Voices is an amazing biennial writing competition that has launched the careers of many authors and illustrators - including 5 members of The Edge (Sara Grant, Dave Cousins, Bryony Pearce, Paula Rawsthorne and myself) - and the winners have collectively had over 120 books published! It's FREE to enter, but you need to be a member of the SCBWI (well worth it) and whilst they'd like you to submit the first 4000 words of your novel, you must have completed the whole novel before submitting (I entered in the first year it was running and HADN'T finished my novel - oops! BIG MISTAKE - as you can read about on my blog!)
Full submission guidelines can be found on the UV website

At the recent launch event at Foyles, this year's judges gave valuable advice to prospective entrants. As the submissions are judged purely on the first 4000 words, the main advice was to polish the opening of your story as much as possible - and to start it as late as possible. One editor even advised cutting your first three chapters(!) to get into the action asap. All the judges talked about wanting a hook - a killer opening line that will intrigue and excite them, take them out of their everyday lives, and compel them to keep reading.

So what makes a killer opening line? Now on the UV team, Sara Grant blogged about an experiment she conducted during the last contest.  Having heard editors and agents say that they could tell from the opening paragraph whether the manuscript had promise, she made a note - based on the opening lines alone - on whether she thought that submission would make it to the next stage. Usually, these judgements proved to be right.

So let's have some fun - with a Killer Opening Lines Quiz! Can you identify each of the following opening lines from YA books? Bonus points if you can identify the four books by previous Undiscovered Voices winners...

1) "My name is Vivian Divine. I have a secret. I know how I'm going to die."

2) "The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage."

3) "I would rather die than face them all again. Die horribly. In a messy, fleshy, blood'n'guts kind of way. It is a total no-brainer."

4) "She'd never get used to beheadings. No matter what Pa said."

5) "Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could be only moments away from disaster." 

6) "Sitting half in and half out of my bedroom window, a foot resting on the fire escape, I checked myself over one last time. Phone. Oystercard. Keys. Mace. Paint."

7) "It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure." 

8) "Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love."

So...which opening lines made you want to read on most?

Could you identify them all?

Answers at the bottom of the page.

Good luck with your own killer opening lines - especially if you're entering UV 2016! (Go on, what have you got to lose?!)

Katie Dale is the award-winning author of YA titles SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE and LITTLE WHITE LIES 
Simon & Schuster UK
Delacorte Press USA & Canada

1) Vivian Divine Is Dead - Lauren Sabel (UV)
2) Going Bovine - Libba Bray
3) Undead - Kirsty McKay (UV)
4) The Executioner's Daughter - Jane Hardstaff (UV)
5) Severed Heads, Broken Hearts - Robyn Schneider
6) Skulk - Rosie Best (UV)
7) Delirium - Lauren Oliver
8) The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater


  1. I did pretty well. Love a great opening line. Great post, Katie!

  2. Love the post - but definitely a lot of killer openings. 5/8. Is this healthy?

  3. **NEWSFLASH** SCBWIs Words and Pictures website are launching a new series called Opening Lines. Members get the opportunity to submit their first paragraph (roughly 5 or 6 sentences) of their book to a literary agent who will give a basic critique. 2 or 3 submissions will be included in each article. Your submission can be anonymous. Think Ask an Agent but with Opening Lines instead of pitch letters. This is not a competition, simply an opportunity to get some feedback on your first lines. If you'd like to submit or just want to find our more, email