Opening Lines with Davinia Andrew-Lynch of ANDLYN


What grabs the reader's attention? 

What immediately draws you in and makes you want to read on? 

We are excited to welcome Davinia Andrew-Lynch from ANDLYN Literary Agency to Opening Lines this month. Davinia has taken time out of her busy schedule to offer professional feedback on the opening lines submitted by our brave SCBWIs. 

Davinia set up Andlyn at the beginning of 2015. Specialising in children's and YA fiction and content, the goal is to find writers and illustrators whose material works both on the page and beyond. 

Previously, Davinia was an associate film/tv agent whilst simultaneously working as a freelance editor and reader for a number of established publishers (including Atom, OUP and Egmont), agents, consultancies and scouts. 

Though submissions are currently closed for picture books, she is actively on the look out for new MG and YA talent! 

Submission #1

Title: The Love Life Challenge 

Pitch: A contemporary YA novel about an ordinary teenager and her troubled younger sister, whose obsession with saving the planet gets terrifyingly out of control. I Give You the Sun, with a magical realism twist. 

Feedback from Davinia:

This is such an intriguing pitch! It would be good to be given a little more information, however. How old are your sisters? Could you tell us the name of your older protagonist? To some extent, are we able to know how Amy is trying to save the planet. You say your novel has a twist of magical-realism, but that is almost like a ‘how long is a piece of string’ comment. Personally, I would like more clarification. So does Amy think she has super-powers, or is just she a bit of an eco-warrior which in itself has a hidden meaning; are you able to give us any kind of inkling as to what type of ‘magic’ we should expect? 

Opening lines: 

My little sister Amy is wearing a monkey mask, making ooh ooh noises. She leaps over to me, thwacking the air violently. 
“Stop chopping my home away,” she screeches, karate-chops missing my nose by millimetres. 
“Go away, Amy.” 
“Eee eee, ooh ooh. Need banana. I'm starving.” Her voice comes out muffled under the plastic muzzle; the rubber ears are huge half-moons sticking out of the side of her head.
She looks ridiculous. 

Feedback from Davinia:

We get an instant understanding of your protagonist’s voice and personality. The sibling relationship also establishes itself quickly, and though Amy is certainly unique (going by the dialogue alone), the reader is easily able to sense the dynamics of their relationship. Again, here it could be good opportunity to tell the reader Amy’s age, particularly if the above behaviour is really out of keeping with her presumed maturity levels. Either way however, I would most certainly want to read more! 

Submission #2 


Pitch: This is a historical Young Adult novel set in fifteenth century Germany. Johanna’s father finds a vernacular bible he can read for himself. He starts to ask awkward questions and the family have to flee arrest. Lost and alone, Johanna dresses in her brother’s clothes, but discovers that it takes more than dress to be a convincing boy. She loves the freedom that being male gives her, but has to choose between independence and love when she meets Georg who is making the same journey. 

Feedback from Davinia:

This is an interesting idea, and to have a novel set against the background of the Lutheran period is certainly different. It is also a fascinating part of history.

I think the focus of your pitch is incorrect - presently a lot of time is wasted giving us the ‘why’ rather than simply setting the situation. Remember that the journey is the most important aspect to get across, and use the time and place to ‘colour it in’.

For example it seems that this is a coming of age romance complicated by Johanna’s disguised gender, yet your pitch uses the opening two sentences describing the religious politics which lead to her disguise. Though I am sure the politics and romance blend well to make an original premise, you may serve your story better by not letting the setting hog the limelight. 

Opening Lines: 


There is shouting. So much shouting. And screaming too. People are rushing towards us; some are running away, others are chasing them with scythes and rakes. There are dogs too, barking and snapping and…and…and… 

When I stop, my ears ring and my chest hurts. The fields I’ve run across are disappearing into the dusk. Ahead is a dark forest edge. And I’m alone. Completely alone. 

There’s a cry close by. I’m deep in the trees, my breath sobbing, before my ears remember the sound. It’s only a crow. 

Dogs bay in the distance. More fear than my body can hold rises in my belly and I can’t breathe for heaving and retching. The dogs won’t stop howling, warning me not to go back; it’s too dangerous. 

The road we were taking goes East. Mother and Father will have escaped, I’m sure of it. My brother and little sisters too. All just ahead of me. And if they’re not, they’ll be waiting at Aunt Margareth’s, in Bohemia. The place where we don’t have to be afraid any more. I just have to catch up with them somewhere. 

Feedback from Davinia:

A good atmosphere has been created here - it’s visceral, immediate and wholly claustrophobic. Usually I don’t like first person storytelling, I think it is a tool which is often used unnecessarily. However here I think it works really well and to great effect. These are very strong opening lines, now work on that pitch! 

Submission #3 

Title: The Hat That Fell From The Sky 

Pitch: Picture book 32 pages for age 3 - 7. Illustrated by author. 630 words. The story is about a creature called Poco Tres which is Spanish for Little Three. He finds a hat, or the hat finds him. The hat is recognised as magic and returned to its rightful owner. Poco Tres is very happy with his reward. 

Feedback from Davinia:

I like the name of your creature - it’s fun and different but I did wonder why you had chosen to use a Spanish name? Also, will the language feature further throughout the story? Is it an important element?

Perhaps also look at giving your pitch more of a story arc and be definite with the type of tale you are trying to tell. So, your hat is magic - for that idea to be reinforced perhaps just focus on the fact that the hat finds Poco Tres. Then, could give us an idea of what this hat can do, and on what type of journey Poco Tres is taken? This seems to be a bit of an adventure story, but at the moment it would be good to get a clearer idea of what your book is really about - is there a particular theme for instance? 

Opening Lines:


Poco Tres has blue fur with dark spots. He keeps things in three pockets on his tummy. One day a gust of wind blew a hat onto his head. 


He looked at himself in a puddle. The hat was blue with a long red feather. He was very pleased! 


Poco Tres wanted to show off the beautiful hat to his friends. He walked proudly with his nose in the air. 


SPLOSH! Suddenly he fell into a deep muddy hole! His bottom poked up in the air and he felt very silly." Help! I'm stuck! " He called. 

Feedback from Davinia:

The first thing I wanted to know, was what did he keep in those three pockets? In tandem with your pitch I am struggling a little to work out where the story is going. I would like to see quickly established your main character, the hat finding him and exactly what that hat can do. We can then get a clear idea of the type of story you are trying to tell. Also ensure the magic is placed upfront - you want your reader to know that this is no ordinary hat, and therefore no ordinary story. You will create more intrigue and excitement by ensuring that the magic of your tale runs clearly through from start to finish.

Thank you Davinia for your time and professional feedback! 

This is a great exercise in open writing, for those who have received personal feedback through the article, and for all of us who want to learn what makes those killer lines. If you'd like to contribute to 'Opening Lines', please email an 'elevator pitch' and opening lines to Lou at 


Lou Minns is the (joint) Features Editor for Words & Pictures SCBWI BI and also the new Social Media Co-ordinator for SCBWI San Francisco North & East Bay.


Follow: @LMMinns

1 comment:

  1. These types of statements are often required when applying for a job, internship or academic program. See more fellowship personal statement


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.