[found on hatrack.com; by Orson Scott Card]
“If you mess up the opening, nothing you do later in the story will fix it. And because mistakes in the opening will reverberate through the rest of the story, when you finally do fix the opening you usually have to throw out and redo everything that you wrote after it. With rare exceptions, you simply have to get the opening right before you can go on.
But what is the “opening”? The first sentence? Having a good first sentence is nice, but it’s not the opening. By definition, the first sentence is in the first paragraph, and the first paragraph is free. That is, the first paragraph of a story does not have to be in the same voice or mood or tone as the rest of the work. The first paragraph is important for setting the scene, for giving vital information that allows what follows to make sense. But the real opening is after that first paragraph — when the story starts in earnest.”
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