Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The First Page


You have this read this post, at Author, Author, US-biased but relevant nonetheless.

A writers' festival in which brave souls submit (anonymously) the first page of their novels, which are read out loud by a reader. During the readings, as the uncredited writers quake in their chairs, the three agents on the panel shout out “STOP!” at the point where they would cease reading the submission.

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. And this at a conference thrown by the legendarily courteous-to-strangers Canadians.

Read the long list of reasons to stop reading and then consider your own first page.

e.g.

21. The character spots him/herself in a mirror, in order to provide an excuse for a physical description.
26. When the first lines are dialogue, the speaker is not identified.
40. The character shown is too average.
41. The stakes are not high enough for the characters.
48. The narrator speaks directly to the reader (“I should warn you…”), making the story hyper-aware of itself qua story.
52. The tag lines are more revealing than the dialogue. (The example used: “She squawked.”)

Also this post on writing to a theme and how not to lose at the first hurdle.

11 comments:

BarbaraS said...

What a resource - and what an author - her memoir sounds very interesting, BTW, not everyone who could claim a SF writer as their family member!

Totalfeckineejit said...

I'll get me coat.

Ossian said...

There's an excellent book based on a similar premise, The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. He used to be an agent who received ten thousand mss per year. He analyses the whole subject in detail with chapters on style, tone, pace, character etc, loads of examples of good (from classics) and bad (made up), and exercises at the end of every chapter.

bfs said...

Thank you SO much for your comment today/yesterday on my blog!!

I have a couple of things to say, first ~ something to ask...what is "meme"?? I'm sure it's something from your corner of the world, but I would love to know. If you have already answered this for me, consider me as a senior citizen ;-) who has forgotten but will not forget again once you tell me....

Second, one day I do plan to get back to writing. Something that troubles me is how things I was taught, for instance, use of commas, has changed.

Less seems better now. I was taught, "Bob, Janice, and Judy were present." Now, it seems that it should be "Bob, Janice and Judy were present."

Can you discuss that some time?

I just love your blog, even though it continually reminds me of the writer I am not.

Anti-Laureate said...

Wondering if you've seen this:

http://www.bookslut.com/features/2009_01_013859.php

The Dotterel said...

Sounds like a literary version of X-Factor - perhaps it should be called Y-factor - as in, 'why bother'?

KAREN said...

That's a very enlightening post! I may have to look a little harder at my opening page after that :o)

Leigh said...

Thank you. Oh, thank you, for these links.
I shall go see, and feel inadequate.
But I am grateful, and will be more so when I have learned.

Women Rule Writer said...

This is great stuff. It firms up a lot of what I think when reading comp entries / subs to mags. Thanks for the link.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks. I thought it worth sharing. Because as the purple dinosaur says...
Y-Factor! You should patent that.

Emerging Writer said...

bfs: You're welcome. I was taught no commas before a conjunction (e.g. and)
American rules of grammar seem to be subtly different so you could blame it on that.