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Sunday, August 27, 2017

The all-important first page

cj Sez:  Some writers’ conferences offer writers opportunities to pitch their stories to agents or editors. Pre-conference submission of a chapter or a few pages for consideration is also popular.

One conference I attended offered participants 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. 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.

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

** The beginning was too slow. Too many details, too much description, too much backstory, or too many characters—and all of that on the first page—caused the judges to lose interest. The opening paragraphs also lacked action or a hook to entice the readers to continue to read.

** The writer didn’t establish a clear point of view. She/he headhopped or mixed first or third person with omniscient points of view. Remember, we’re talking only the first page here.

** Mechanical errors earned rejection. Yep, writing has mechanics, and it is vital that you know them. So, what are mechanical errors? They are the typos, punctuation errors (a lot of them involving the commas and quotation marks of dialogue), and unclear syntax that can destroy a good story.   

What the agent or publisher sees in the first few paragraphs of a manuscript is what they expect to see throughout each chapter and scene. I plan to use the list to analyze a short story I’ve just started, to make sure I stay on target.

If you re-read the first 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.

Another novel by my publisher... California Bound is Old West action and a love story, co-authored by Frank Kelso and John O’Melveny Woods.  Available on Amazon

Please keep all those in the path of Hurricane Harvey in your prayers as they deal with the devastation caused by this storm.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Find more about my publications at: 
“Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @
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