Most writers know it’s important to have great first and last lines in novels. But did you know first and last lines in every scene can make the difference between whether the reader sets the novel down or continues reading. That doesn’t mean you should have a monumental line for the beginning and ending of each scene. The lines can be simple, but they need to do the job assigned to them.
First Lines: Many writers take too much time setting the scene or using descriptions for the first line of each scene. This is a mistake unless you’re using those descriptions to set a mood. First lines should set the emotional tone for what’s to follow. Many times, they’ll introduce the point of view character and hint at the coming conflict. Whatever the case, a good first line will make the reader want to read further.
Last Lines: The biggest mistake new writers make is ending a scene too late. Don’t tie up loose ends and allow resolutions in your scenes. You want to have the reader on edge wondering what’s going to happen. And whatever you do, don’t end a scene with somebody falling asleep unless it’s Snow White right after she took a bite of the poison apple.
The best way to think of last lines in scenes is to think about the old serial movie cliffhangers. Each last line needs to have a hook. While you might not want major catastrophes at the end of every scene, you will want an unresolved issue that causes enough tension to make the reader read further.
Read through the first and last lines of every scene in your manuscript. Forget about the middle part at this point. Are the first lines setting the tone you want to achieve? Are the last lines hinting about conflict yet to come or leaving the reader biting his nails wondering what’s going to happen yet? If not, consider revising them.