Who knew that the battle on the first page was so important?
I learned this years ago at the Pikes Peak Writing Conference. I was hammered during one of the critique sessions and the agent involved only read the first page of mine and several other attendees. It was a sobering experience.
Imagine standing in front of 30 or so other writers and having an editor give your first page the once over as you read it aloud. I had worked hard on the first page before and thought that I had a good point of view (POV), no spelling mistakes, an identifiable character and I introduced a pending doom. My mistakes ended up being large and plentiful.
I don’t think the writing itself was horrible, but maybe it was. My real problem is always where to begin the story. A previous conference suggested a crescendo during the first chapter and ending with a bang. I think that this still can be done, but my issue was that I didn’t have a good hook for the reader. I started with a scene eluding to a disaster – not bad – but then I went into a description of my protagonist – very bad. It didn’t end up going well. Therefore – this begs the question: Would you ever put down a book after reading just the first page, first paragraph, and maybe even the first sentence? If so, then you would agree that the real estate on that first page is so important. As I am constantly editing my manuscript – I’ve noticed a tendency to come back to that first page or first chapter – in order to ensure that everything is exactly how I want it. It’s the make it or break it foot in the door. What pressure!
As I rewrite the first page over and over again – I try to keep my sense of where I think the book should start and the vast information that I learned and the experiences I had. I hope that my first page is becoming stronger and stronger. It certainly needs to be.