December 21, 2013

Writing Tip: Does Your Opening Page Grab Your Readers?

When people peruse bookshelves, looking for something new and exciting to read, they look first at the cover (more about that in another post) and then they often open the book and read the first page. As writers we basically have those first few paragraphs to grab their attention, hold it and turn them into buyers. It's not much to go on, so it better be spectacular, right? If it's not, back on the shelf your book goes.
Somewhat more importantly, if you want to get your book published in the first place, agents and editors judge manuscripts in the same way.

Ray Rhamey, writes a wonderful column called Flog a Pro in my favorite writing website Writer Unboxed, where he analyzes a first manuscript page of a popular book to see if it passes the test. It's a given that the work must be beautifully written (Fifty Shade of Grey notwithstanding), or at least competently written (Fifty Shades of Grey notwithstanding) but after that Ray says people will stop reading if those lines don't contain these essential elements:

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene-setting
  • Character
Whether you agree with him or not it's an interesting exercise. Read Ray's latest column about a David Baldacci bestseller - then do it with your own first page and see how it stacks up. 

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