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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The All-Important First Page

cj Sez:  Many writers’ conferences offer writers opportunities to pitch their stories to agents or editors. Pre-conference submissions of a chapter or a few pages for consideration is also popular. One conference I know of offered attendees a chance to have the first page of their manuscripts reviewed by three publishers. (I’m sure other conferences have done something similar.) The idea was to critique one page and then give the writer an idea of how successful the manuscript might be in getting a request to see more pages.

The 'toon is from my Facebook page.
The publishers stopped reading some of the submissions before finishing the page.

The submissions ranged from fiction to non-fiction and adult to YA, but the rejected pages seemed to have similar problems. The judges identified four blatant writing miscues that caused them to stop reading:

1.      The story’s opening paragraphs failed to establish where the story was taking place, the time, and the setting.

2.      The beginning was too slow. Too many details, too much description, too much backstory, or too many charactersand all of that on the first pagecaused the judges to lose interest. The opening paragraphs also lacked action or a hook to entice the readers to continue to read.

3.      The writer didn’t establish a clear point of view. She/he headhopped or mixed first or third person with omniscient points of view.

4.      Mechanical errors earned a speedy rejection. What are mechanical errors? They are the typos, punctuation errors (a lot of them involving dialogue), and unclear syntax that can destroy a good story.   

What agents or publishers see in the first few paragraphs of a manuscript is what they expect to see throughout each scene and chapter. That makes for an acceptance or early rejection.
If you re-read the paragraphs of your manuscript, would you see any of these miscues?

Lyrical Pens would love to hear how you construct a first page. Do you re-write yours? I usually re-write mine many times as I work through a manuscript.

Love this Chicken 'Toon from Facebook
   Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try
   to do the same.

   DEADLY STAR (Publisher: Crimson Romance)   (B&  (
   PS: I intend to use the list to analyze a short story
   I’ve just started, to make sure I stay on target.

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