Last week Larry Brooks and I critiqued 16 first pages submitted by writers aspiring to publication. This was the Write on the River First Page Critique Session, an exhilarating event we first introduced last fall for our members.
Here are some things I thought I knew about first pages, or learned (after listening to Larry.)
By the way, if you don’t know Larry Brooks as a writer and teacher, kindly introduce yourself to his award-winning blog on writing, appropriately subtitled, Get it written, Get it right, Get it Published. He’s fabulous.
All shapes and types
Story openings for successful novels display a wide variety of approaches. There is no one-size-fits-all ideal opening. But that doesn’t mean anything goes. Larry was more tolerant of slow openings than I was. But we both wanted to see something special on the page.
You have thirty seconds
You have only a few seconds to convince a tired, jaded agent or editor to read on. They will probably give you more than 30 seconds, but in that half-minute window you will make a first impression. Sometimes my first impression last week was just a feint, “Oh, oh.” The sense that I was not in the hands of someone who’s done their homework. If I were an agent, it would color my reading of what came next. Don’t be one of those.
Your first line is important. Don’t squander it on background (unless it is riveting.) Strive for originality. “The first camel died at noon.” Ditto for your first paragraph. It must establish your authority and/or the essential interest of your story, or at least of the scene. Read More…