I’m spending several weekends this month at local writing events. One is our region’s SCBWI conference while two others are informal gatherings with other writers. Each one gives me the opportunity to present one of my first pages to a captive audience.
I’ve heard all the advice for making a first page shine:
- Introduce your MC but not in a dream or when they first wake up.
- Start with action but also include conflict and tension.
- Create a beginning so intriguing a reader can’t put your story down.
- Make each word and sentence count.
- Humor can help carry a reader to the next page.
I know how important this is because agents and editors will often only read that far before tossing your story aside. I get it, but I do find exceptions for established authors.
I’ve read many books this year by some of my favorite authors and the first few pages are yawn inducing. But I read on because I have a past with this author and know how much I enjoyed their previous efforts. They always come through.
A recent weekend visit to the bookstore confirmed the reasoning behind making first pages for newbie authors sparkle. I wandered around the children’s section looking at titles but also watching adults and children do the same. We all had the drill down pat: 1) Pick up a book because of the title or cover. 2) Read the inside cover description. 3) Read a paragraph or two on the first page. 4) Place back on shelf or tuck under your arm for purchase.
Conclusion: Each book received an average of one minute of contact though kids were closer to 20-30 seconds.
I have six first pages I can choose to get feedback on – just 18 lines to be read out loud to a captive and critical audience. One I’ll use is my newest first page of a work in progress. I’m getting better at this first page business because it isn’t too bad, but I’ll see what kind of feedback it gets.
Of course once you nail the beginning, the rest better hold up… or your beloved story will end up on the chopping block. In the end it’s a broken record but an important one to remember: Never give up and continue to Revise… Revise… Revise.