Its common knowledge your first words on a page, maybe the first 3,000, are the most important ones you write. They are what catch the attention of an agent or publishing company. If you want to succeed, you’d better learn to start off with a bang.
The thought is what someone sees on the first ten pages is about what they will get for the rest. Not always true for both children and adult books I’ve read. Many times I will purchase a book based on a friend’s recommendation or book jacket tease. Sometimes the first ten are brilliant, only to find myself struggling to get through the rest. Other times I’m kicking myself for buying the book as the first ten are dreadful, but then I stick with it and I’m glad I did.
Nevertheless, new authors can only be noticed by their first words. I finished my first manuscript before going back and making sure those first pages were as solid as the rest. The techniques I used were not new, but helped get my first pages ready for critical eyes to see.
- Print out just the first 10 pages of your story. Go away from where you normally write and read through what you have written. Take a look at each sentence, each paragraph. Checkmark those that you feel good about, circle spots that need work.
- Find others to critique your first pages. I found friends, neighbors, and strangers who were willing to devote 15 minutes of their time to read my initial words, where they may have balked at a whole manuscript. Their suggestions are food for thought and get you thinking. If you hear the same comment more than once, it’s time to rewrite.
- Word usage and repetition. Find the words you overuse and either delete or change them. A free online tool like Pro Writing Aid can help you see things you might have otherwise missed.
I changed my first ten pages about a dozen times and am glad I did. I now have a beginning that pulls a reader into the story I’m telling. Yes, those first pages are like the trailer for a movie so go ahead, wow your audience.