A Company of Writers: Writing those first few pages.

companyofwritersOpenings suck. Seriously, they do. You always hear “Don’t worry about the opening, just get the story out!”, but any writer will tell you that once the story is ‘out’, the opening line of your manuscript becomes the do-or-die moment. As a matter of fact, the whole damn first paragraph, page, chapter fall into this category as well.

No pressure. Really?

This is evident in a series of tweets I recently saw. If you’re on Twitter, I suggest you save the hashtag #tenqueries. Some agents ask for a first chapter sample with your query and every so often these agents will give their first impression of the subbed chapters. Their comments can be a real eye-opener, especially when the reasons for rejection are easily fixable.

I’ve beta-read a lot of first chapters. Sometimes that’s as far as I can get, and sometimes that’s as far as I want to get because I now the author will make the same mistakes throughout the entire novel, and if I’ve picked up on that, you can bet agents and publishers have too.

Many times, first chapter problems are a result of the writer’s over-enthusiastic prose. They want to ‘set the tone’ or ‘mood’ for their story, but instead, bore the reader with info-dump and back story that drives the reader away. I once read a chapter where the author wrote three pages on the political climate of an alien race to explain the reason the MC was making a brief stop at the planet. Nothing in those three pages had anything to do with the plot. All irrelevant backstory.

Another problem I’ve come across is this need to outline the MC’s entire day. What they did, wore, ate from the moment they got up. Unless there are elements of foreshadowing, it’s pointless to keep it in your story and they you will lose the reader’s interest. I’m not telling you to throw it out, just don’t put it in your story. All this information is useful to YOU, just not always useful for the reader. Back story can be used SPARINGLY; a brief glimpse into what may be motivating your character to take the action she or he does.

The first few pages must grab the reader; make them want to know why your MC is doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of explanation, just enough to pique the readers interest. Once they’re interested, they’re all yours.

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About Darke Conteur
Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. The author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy. A pagan at heart, her personal goal it to find her balance within nature; exploring the dark through her stories and the light through her beliefs. When not writing or working with crystals, she enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and very loud music.

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