The First Line
We love that writers around the world are inspired by our first lines, and we know that not every story will be sent to us. However, we ask that you do not submit stories starting with our first lines to other journals (or post them online on public sites) until we've notified you as to our decision (usually three to four weeks after the deadline). When the entire premise of the publication revolves around one sentence, we don't want it to look as if we stole that sentence from another writer. If you have questions, feel free to drop us a line.
Also, we understand that writers may add our first line to a story they are currently working on or have already completed, and that's cool. But please do not add our first line to a previously published story and submit it to us. We do not accept previously published stories, even if they have been repurposed for our first lines.
One more thing while I've got you here: Writers compete against one another for magazine space, so, technically, every literary magazine is running a contest. There are, however, literary magazines that run traditional contests, where they charge entry fees and rank the winners. We do not - nor will we ever - charge a submission fee, nor do we rank our stories in order of importance. Occasionally, we run contests to help come up with new first lines, or we run fun, gimmicky competitions for free stuff, but the actual journal is not a contest in the traditional sense.
Fiction: All stories must be written with the first line provided. The line cannot be altered in any way, unless otherwise noted by the editors. The story should be between 300 and 5,000 words (this is more like a guideline and not a hard-and-fast rule; going over or under the word count won't get your story tossed from the slush pile). The sentences can be found on the home page of The First Line's Web site, as well as in the prior issue. Note: We are open to all genres. We try to make TFL as eclectic as possible.
Non-Fiction: 500-800 word critical essays about your favorite first line from a literary work.
All Stories: Writers should include a two- to three-sentence biography of themselves that will appear in the magazine should their story run.
Multiple Submissions: We don't mind if you want to submit multiple stories for the same issue. However, it is unlikely we will use more than one of your stories in the same issue.
Four-Part Stories: If you think you are up to the challenge, you can write a four-part story that uses the spring, summer, fall, and winter sentences. However, all the parts must be submitted at once (a single e-mail or snail mail) before the February 1st deadline. (If selected, each part will be published in its respective issue.)Submissions: We prefer you send manuscripts via e-mail to submission (@) thefirstline (dot) com. We accept stories in MS Word or Word Perfect format (we prefer attachments). Please do not send pdf versions of your story or links to Google docs. Make sure your name and contact information, as well as your bio, are part of the attachment. Stories also can be sent to The First Line's post office box.