And Now, the First Line of the Current Work in Progress

Here it is:

Nicholas Bell woke up spattered in blood; the second indication his life had taken a wholly unexpected turn.

All right, kids! That’s all you get for another year! Hope you liked it!

70 Comments on “And Now, the First Line of the Current Work in Progress”

  1. allisonmonkey – After 10 years together, my spouse and I are expecting a wee one. With a couple of nerdy language and science geeks for parents, the Tickle's got no chance at being normal. Sorry, kid.

    For some reason, I imagine this has something to do with a squid.

    I hope there’s a squid.

  2. How often do you find that you revise the first line/paragraph/chapter of a new novel after you have completed the first draft?

  3. The first indication being his panicked awakening upon spitting out a huge hairball? Can we say the third indication was when Nick realized his breath smelled like decaying tuna? Miao!

  4. John D. Bell:

    I don’t really do drafts. I edit as I go along and then send it out. That first line or something very close to it is likely to stay.

  5. Any chance of you teaching a class on first lines? Yours are all awesome and I could use some of that awesome over here.

  6. Igor Rendic – Igor Rendić likes stories in all their myriad shapes and forms, which is probably why he's gone into translating and writing fiction. He also reads *a lot*, listens to plenty of podcasts, and likes trying new food.

    Nicholas Bell? Something Christmas/Santa related? :D Even the blood would tie into it :D

  7. Reminds me of a saying I heard; goes something like “You come into this world naked, screaming, and covered in blood. If you live right, it doesn’t have to end there.

  8. One of my stories begins:

    Liana’s life had already taught her that when awakening in pain and confusion it was often better if she didn’t open her eyes right away.

  9. I frequently quote the first sentences of The Android’s Dream and Old Man’s War to people when I am explaining why they must read those books. Sounds like this one will work that way also.

  10. When the next old man book coming out???
    Just last month caught up with the human division and the last installment ends on a cliff hanger. So there has gotta be more to come.
    I actually prefer Harry Wilson to John Perry and love the strange brotherly relationship between him and Schmit

  11. Another great first line! I can’t wait to see what the third line is. We know that’s where people become really critical!

  12. Great. The Human Division came out serialized by chapter. Now we’re serializing by sentence? Available one per hour for download to my Kindle? What’s next? By the word? By the syllable? By the letter?

  13. Rebecca Lacy – Rebecca is the president of Pinnacle Management Group, which specializes in improving organizational performance and individual fulfillment through the use of diagnostics, training, consultation and coaching. Rebecca has a Master's in Business Management and a Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration. In her free time, she likes to write, hike, paint, entertain and travel. To learn more about Rebecca, visit her profile on LinkedIn at Larry is Executive Vice President of Pinnacle Management Group. He hold a Masters in International Business. In his free time, Larry likes to hike, bike, act, entertain and travel. To learn more about Larry, visit his LinkedIn profile at:
    Larry & Rebecca Lacy

    That is so wild! The exact same thing happened to me just last week.

  14. justthreadtwiddling – 50 something grandmother who plays with fiber, all fiber, any fiber. There is also a strong interest in dogs, genealogy and family history.

    Was waking up the first indication?

  15. delenn13 – Great White North by way of Florida – I have the intellectual confidence to appear stupid. Sometimes. Being over 50 I can blame my age/meds, also.

    Writing for Disney, I see.

  16. Is that the Oxford semi-colon? Personally, in that sentence, I think it could be either a comma or a semi-colon; although a dash could also work – regardless.

  17. I don’t know if it’s possible to top the first line of Android’s Dream.

    I still infrequently manage to work TAD’s opener into casual conversation.

  18. Dan – Dan Hartensveld, CDIA is President of The EDI Project, a solution provider specializing in healthcare informatics. He has been working with large health insurers, providers and healthcare technology companies since 1996 involving complex data integration, claims automation, risk adjustment, The Affordable Care Act, HIE, HIX, to name a few. Lately, the company has been successful in developing and putting into production massively scaleable, analytics projects for use in processing "Big Data" sets.

    Looks like I’ll have to take a day off somewhere around the end of May 2014. . .

  19. Oh cool! a semi-sequel to the movie Moon, featuring Sam’s brother….

  20. A book starting with blood spatter patterns? Is this book about a serial killer who kills other serial killers?

  21. Reminds me of the beginning of Uncharted 2. Something along the lines of “Ugh. That’s a lot of blood. That’s a lot of MY blood.”

    Which is then followed by a vertigo inducing climb up a train car that’s hanging off a cliff.

  22. Shawn – Ohio, USA – Early to bed, early or whirlybird or something. Bored now, bye. Don't step on any Lego's 'cause it _Hurts_!

    Awh ninja’d by stoicjim.

    It was a dark and stormy night when I sought shelter from the Red Baron on top of a doghouse.
    I thought I was safe.
    At first, when the drops fell upon my bald pate I assumed impure raindrops filtered thru years of the vermin droppings in the attic and a leaky roof.
    But no such luck.
    It was blood.
    I gazed upon my long lost cat’s bloody corpse and pondered his last words, and wondered how I would break this bad news to the thirty-five kittens he’d suckled and taught to hunt.
    And I pondered, on this midnight dreary about his not being able to speak very well.
    Did he say Rosemouse? Or was it Mousebud?
    And I realized. It’s my just my neighbor’s a cat. What do I care.
    And threw his bloody corpse in the trash and went off to finish my novel that will, because its going to be so awesome, win me the Nobbles Prize and maybe some dynamite.

  23. My wife sold off our copies of the Bulwer Lytton collection but one of my fave openings was the barbarian who rides up as a young maiden is about to be torched and says, “flick that bic, toast that chick, and you’ll feel my steel through your last meal.” Suck it Shirley Jackson.

  24. I love delenn13’s comment:
    “Writing for Disney, I see.”
    My initial reaction was “wow, thats really really nasty”. It gave me a vision of our beloved author (scalzi) hunched over a tablet and struggling with his opening sentance while at a science fiction convention. Some smart alec author (you pick – rothfuss perhaps?) snatches the tablet from his hands, reads it, and tosses it back with a scathing “Writing for Disney, I see”.
    So much mental imagery from 5 simple words…. Thanks Delenn13.

  25. Oooh, I can help with the second line.

    “of course, the blood was not really what caught his attention first. It was the squid sitting on his chest wrapped in a snuggie made of old news papers that wins that award .”

    Its like playing “Shadow Wars of the Night Dragons” Mad-libs.

  26. Oh, interesting discussion with my wife just now about John’s next novel lead to describing the serialization of The Human Division. I told her I didnt do the serialization version because it was more money than the book in total just to have it before the actual book is out. I said “I’d never do that”

    Shelley said, “I shudder to think how much you would pay to read early chapters of the next Game of Thrones.” Touche’ my bride, Touche’…

  27. Huh, weird- one of today’s check your progress sort of IMs from my boss was titled “the non-blood spattered version.”

  28. I wonder which is smaller: the odds of a blog comment section reaching a consensus about punctuation, or the odds of an author actually making use of said comment section’s punctuation advice?

  29. Change just one letter for another, and it’s a different story:

    “Nicholas Bell woke up spattered in blood; the second indication his wife had taken a wholly unexpected turn.”

  30. I don’t wanna wait a year for the second sentence. Could you maybe please finely Old-World craft it down to a month or so?

  31. SCALZI!!!!! YOU TROLL!!!!! Leaving us, your utterly loyal fans, to wait in misery, not even knowing the title of this next masterwork! How cruel!

    On a more serious note: Decent first line, but nowhere near as good as the first line of “The Android’s Dream”. If it’s a sequel to Redshirts–I can’t wait. In fact, it would be safe to say that I can’t wait for this next book no matter what.

    If this is another OMW novel, I hope that you reveal more soon. If not…I shall cry. I shall cry enormous tears, with a wobbly lip and great big hypnotic Bambi eyes, and so I shall guilt you into revealing more!!! *evil laugh*

  32. delenn13 – Great White North by way of Florida – I have the intellectual confidence to appear stupid. Sometimes. Being over 50 I can blame my age/meds, also.

    @Simon Thanks.

    I was going for sarcasm but scathing works too.

    P.S. John, I do like your work. I. Really. Do.

  33. I’d like to see where this story goes:

    Nicholas Bell woke up spattered in blood; the second indication his life had taken a holy unexpected turn.

    Carrie gets a boyfriend?

  34. Rich Jones – Rich Jones lives with his family in the north eastern United States. He has worked in the Healthcare and Information technology fields for many years. His interests run to Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, Rock and Heavy Metal music, practicing Martial Arts and technology in general. He has only just started to publish the writing that he has been doing as a hobby of years.

    So I take it you continue to be a fan of going In Media Res. I often wonder at that in my own writing.

  35. If you were to replace “blood” with “slime” this might be the novelization of Syfy’s SnailQuake.

  36. Crap. Now I have to change the first line of my sci fi novel. OK, let me think. “The night was humid, but dry…” OK, that’s a start.

  37. Looking at the above I can see I’m not the first to have this sentiment. A semi-colon??? Aaargh!!! Nooooooo!!! Love the covered in blood bit. I believe you could work the humor of the second bit in in a much better method than the dreaded semi-colon. Really. I know you can.

  38. You know, this could be just a cruel trick. The next sentences could be something like

    “No, no, no! He couldn’t go that way! No more blood; no more violence. He mentally renewed his promise to his parole officer as he started over with a new blank screen.”

  39. I agree with Ted; I’m not sure about the semicolon. But I don’t mind authors using punctuation unconventionally if it serves their style (or starting sentences with ‘But’ for that matter).

  40. Marilyn Armstrong – United States – Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

    Wow. That’s cruel.

  41. George E. Mitchell – Seabeck, WA – I've been working in the software industry since 1991. Over that time, I've learned a lot about technical people and had a good deal of success working with them and managing them. LinkedIn: <a href=""></a>
    George E. Mitchell

    All right, I was on board with _The Human Division_ as an episodic release, but don’t you think releasing the new book one sentence at a time is taking it a bit too far?

  42. Plus one line every year is a bit much. We’ll all be dead by the time the Scalzi AI set up by the Scalzi Institute finishes the first page.

  43. Nicholas Bell woke up spattered in blood; the second indication his life had taken a wholly unexpected turn. He turned over to find lying next to him the lifeless corpse of the internet grammar pedant he’d met at last night’s party. From bad to worse; no one would ever believe his innocence.

    …so begins Spleen and Colon

    On a separate note, please don’t become a vampire novelist!

  44. Kim McAllister – San Francisco Bay Area – Kim McAllister, RN, BSN, CEN, has been a nurse for 35 years. She loves her job (except when she doesn't) and when she isn't at work she's probably at a NASCAR race.
    Kim McAllister

    Truly, you get the award for the best first sentences, EVER! :D

  45. OK, general consensus is that it is a good first line. The rest to follow in a year. How many striving writers want to post their story take-off from that first line? What was the first indication? What is the set? Ready! Set! Go! Give John a run for his money with this teaser.

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