Why are the first 250 words of your manuscript so important?
Why do many agents not read beyond that point?
Why do readers pick up a book in bookstore, only read the first page, and then put the book back on the shelf?
Why does Amazon offer a sneak peak at the first page of many books?
ANSWER: Because if you can't capture a reader's interest in the first 16 lines, first page, or first 250 words, chances are ... you're not going to do it later on in the story either.
According to one of my favorite websites Flogging the Quill:
"[the first page] ... includes each of these ingredients ... The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
•Tension (in the reader, not the just characters)
According to one of my favorite literary agents Suzie Townsend:
Stand out from the slush!
As soon as possible:
1. Establish your character and voice
2. Establish the conflict and move the story forward
3. Establish the tone
4. Establish an indication of setting
5. Catch the reader off guard - to grab them and keep them reading
Goals of first two pages:
1. Create interest in the character and the plot
2. Create intrigue
3. Create investment
What do you think? Do you think it's necessary or POSSIBLE to accomplish these things in your first 250 words?
absolutely, other wise we wouldn't have great stories and we all know their are many great stories. :-)ReplyDelete
I don't know if it's necessary to have ALL of these pieces, but the more the better. And when it works, boy, you can tell. I think it's something all writers have to aspire to if they want to get published traditionally.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this post as I'm just rewriting my first chapter.ReplyDelete
I'm in the same boat as Patti, rewriting my first chapter. I have everything on that list so far, but I have to ramp up the tension. This is awesomely helpful.ReplyDelete
Definitely! It's possible and necessary. Having said that, I'm not sure I've managed it yet . . . it's all still a work in progress.ReplyDelete
One way that I work on getting all the important details in quickly is short story writing. I am mainly involved in a long WIP, but when my mind wanders, I let myself try to write a short story once a week or so and that forces me to get some of this stuff in really quickly.
Very good tips! I think it is possible, because I have read books like this but also difficult. Have a great weekend!ReplyDelete
Wow, I am not really sure if I do all of that. I guess that could be why I keep getting one rejection letter after another. Thank you so much for the awesome tips.ReplyDelete
Very true. A book has to get me in the first chapter at least! The first few paragraphs are vitally important.ReplyDelete
It's true. I looked at a book just last night and wasn't grabbed by the Amazon preview so I passed on it. This is definitely something that strikes home.ReplyDelete
Okay, really well done. I'm revamping my first scene - definitely taking this into consideration.ReplyDelete
Though sometimes those goals are important in the first couple pages, if the writing's done very well, I'll give the story longer than the first few pages, trusting the author will get me to where I need to be as the reader.ReplyDelete
I think this is definitely true about how much agents are willing to read...however, if I hadn't heard how great The Help was, I might've quit reading @ the beginning. It was slow to get started, but I find many classics work that way, and it gives you time to get to know each character/their motivations. Sometimes I hate the breakneck speed we, as writers, have to keep up in this day and age!ReplyDelete
I think it's possible to accomplish - many good books do - but I think it's dangerous to think of this as a checklist of what you need to include.ReplyDelete
All I ask of the first page is that it grabs my interest, and gives me confidence in the author - confidence that I'm in good hands and that my investment in time reading the book will be well spent.
If it does that, it doesn't matter how. I see this list as a good guide to the kinds of things that will most likely achieve that goal, but they aren't the be-all-and-end-all.
Yep, that's one of the lessons I learned early on after starting to get my work critiqued. The first chapter, and especially the first page, is essential!!ReplyDelete
Because so much effort is put into the first page, if I'm buying a book from a shop I flick to a central page and read a few paragraphs to get a feeling of the flow and voice.ReplyDelete
Yes! I read the back cover first and it better lure me in or the book gets put back on the shelf. So if a story has a cool premise then I don't care if the first couple of pages are slow. But if the book is still slow by the middle of chapter one then I ditch it.ReplyDelete
For me, the blurb has to be intriguing. If I'm not interested within the first 2-3 paragraphs, I likely won't be interested in much after that.ReplyDelete
great advice! i hope i do that! i won a five page crit, guess we'll see what she has to say! fingers crossedReplyDelete
I;m trying to get into the girl with the dragob tattoo. As we all know, Stieg Larsson (RIP) has a monster of a reputation and yet, why am I struggling? I have all three btwReplyDelete
I think a strong beginning definitely should have some of all of these, but I don't think it needs to have all of them to hook me.ReplyDelete