Here I am, with a sliver of time to work on my novel, and what am I doing instead? Cleaning out my Gmail inbox. (My characters and I are fighting.)
That's where I came across this article from the Observer: The 10 best first lines in fiction. What better way to avoid my own work than to study that of others? (Counts as work anyway, right?)
The list includes a spectrum of writers, mostly classics with some modern-ish stuff sprinkled in here and there. It's interesting because by the standards of contemporary mainstream fiction, many of these first lines wouldn't be great first lines at all. They wouldn't catch a reader's eye, much less an agent's or editor's. Readers are too technology-driven, too fast-paced, to slow down for the likes of Jane Austen and James Joyce, no matter how beautiful the writing. Today's readers are inundated with visual and auditory stimuli, which means books have a lot to compete with.
So slow down. Read the list. Study the antique-y photos. Enjoy the slideshow. Revel in the complicated sentence structures of yesteryear.
At least for a few minutes.