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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: first pages, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 11 of 11
1. First Page Contest

It's time for one of my freaking favorite things to do on this blog: run a contest!

The rules are simple:

  • Send me the first page (250 words) of your chapter book, middle grade or YA manuscript (any genre) to buriededitor @ gmail dot com (obviously make that into a workable email address.)
  • Get me your first page by Thursday 10/4 at 11:59pm CST.
  • I will read these and Friday morning I will post my 2 favorites.
  • Then, you all will get to vote on your favorite over the weekend. The winner will be announced on 10/9/2012.
  • The winner gets a 15 page Conference Style Critique (minor detail: You have to get your pages to me by Thursday 10/11.)
  • The runner-up gets 2 books from Pyr, finish copies of Ian McDonald's 2 books. (These were sent to a friend of mine as review copies. Pyr is not sponsoring this post in any way, and they'll probably be surprised when they come across it. However, I see no reason not to share a little smaller press love around.)
I do reserve the right to suspend or cancel this contest at anytime, and it is void wherever prohibited. But, I think this will be fun, and I look forward to reading everyone's entries!

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2. First Page Wonders

There is nothing like starting a manuscript (or a book) and getting hooked on the first page (or first few pages). Sure, the whole rest of the manuscript better live up to the beginning but there's nothing more exciting than being drawn in immediately.

Fortunately, there are tons of ways for this to happen:

  • Dynamic characters - I don't mean that they do something on the first page. They can, but they can also just be fascinating people, and be showing just how fascinating they are on that first page.
  • Unexpected plot twist - This is hard to do in only a page, but I've seen it done. One of my favorite books, The Amulet of Samarkand, does exactly this.
  • Strong voice - Obviously the voice of your work always matters, but it really makes a difference in that very beginning when you are trying to get someone hooked.
  • A really great idea - If you're world is truly unique or your book has some sort of really fantastic conceit, why not try to work it into the very beginning? (Unless of course it later acts as a surprise twist.)
  • In medias res - Ah, high school English terms. However, starting in the middle of things can be exciting, and it can be a great way to get the story started.
These are all things that can get my heart racing when I start a manuscript. Unfortunately, most of the time the work I see has a slow start. Especially with newer authors, there is a tendency to write a bit to get to know the characters and world of the story with the action and actual book not starting for pages or even chapters into the manuscript. This is absolutely a great way to start a first draft, but by the time I'm looking at a work, that sort of thing should have been edited out. That is of course where writing partners and critique groups come in.

So, before you put that manuscript in the mail (or in the email these days), glance back over your first few pages and see if they are the kind of thing that will really jump out and grab the editor/agent by the throat. Or at least gently catch their attention.

Books I Think Have Great First Few Pages:

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3. Singapore Fling – What makes an editor read on? First Pages

By Candy Gourlay Notes from the Slushpile suffered the slings and arrows of a trip to Singapore to bring you reportage from the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. This is the second of a series covering the First Page Panel organized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. With many thanks to the deathless efforts of the organizers of a superb Festival. (left to right) 

18 Comments on Singapore Fling – What makes an editor read on? First Pages, last added: 6/3/2012
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4. In Which the Son Rescues the Mother

Euphoria is short-lived in the life of a writer. You have an idea—oh, you have an idea—and you go all out in your attack of said idea—moving forward because you have to move forward because you don't have time (in the heat of the new) to slow things to a slog and hover over the fine points of perfection.

Then it has to happen: You slow down. You stop on a Saturday to read what you have written and you really wish you hadn't. You spend your next three days throwing out most of your work, swapping out paragraphs, cursing the day you opted out of law school (and why, in fact, did you opt out of law school when the law school library guys were so good looking?). Then you slow down, again, read what you've got, again, go off shopping for gifts for your many dear friends, again, and when you return to your desk and read once more, you hit a new low point of despair. You say to your son:

Can I, like, borrow you for an hour?

He says: Yeah, okay. Sure. What is it?

You say: Can you, like, sit on that Corbusier chaise over there while I read, um, nothing much just, well, you know, 38 pages of a stinking brand-new novel? Because we'll have steak tonight? Because it'll be just like you like it, which is to say, medium rare?

Um, he says. Sure, he says. Pulls half a can of Dr. Pepper out of the fridge and settles in for the haul.

And you read. And your son—he doesn't stop you. And you keep going, and what you've got, you realize, either isn't half bad or you're fooled by the sound of your own voice. And when you're done, and you look up, your son isn't even half asleep: He has a whole slew of questions that he's asking. Assumptions he tests. A few little pointers about that police work on page 10. He talks to you about motivation, does a few little turns around What if?

Oh my gosh, oh my goodness, now you answer me this: What would I do without this kid?

13 Comments on In Which the Son Rescues the Mother, last added: 5/22/2009
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5. Beginnings

Revision update: I got some good stuff done on Saturday, but nothing Sunday, and nothing yet today. Uh oh.

I am still working on my beginning, the first eight chapters, which essentially makes up most of act one. Beginnings are very important, from the crucial first sentence, first paragraph and first page that must draw the reader in, through to the first few chapters that must hook a reader enough to make them not want to put the book down.

On Saturday morning, I was re-reading my first page for the umpteenth time, trying to decide if it did for me what first pages in recent bestsellers do for readers. I decided to do an experiment, and I went through my shelves reading the first pages of all the books that I have in my genre. This is invaluable, I believe. These are books that publishers have invested in, and the bestsellers are books readers are enjoying. These books are the standard we all should be writing toward.

Reading those first pages, I could pick out the elements each one had, emotion, character, setting, theme, tone for the book, etc., and how they were shown or told. Some had a sense of foreboding, of things to come, some just made you interested in the character.

For example, in Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander, we know Gregor is frustrated and bored, but not just that, so frustrated and bored that he “resisted the impulse to let out a primal caveman scream. It was building up in the chest, that long gutteral howl reserved for real emergencies.” That’s great showing. Collins also tells us there’s heat, that Gregor is banging his head on a screen, so probably a screened in window or door, and that it’s the beginning of summer.

With Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, things are told more, but that’s mainly because the book is written in first-person narrative; you’re not just in the character’s head seeing things from his point of view, he’s telling you the story of his life so far. In this first page, he tells us that he recently learned something about himself and that if we think we might be the same, we should put the book down, because it’s dangerous. He tells us his name and age and that he has been expelled from school.

After reading these and others, I went back to my first page and identified the elements. I could quickly see what I was lacking and figured out how to remedy it.

Beginnings are the first impression for agents and editors and future readers. They’re so important. They set up the rest of the book. And if you don’t believe me, try Richard Castle, the fictional mystery novelist star in ABC’s show Castle, which I LOVE, by the way. Nathan Fillion is great. Anyway, as Castle says: “When I’m writing a story, the beginning is always the hardest, but if you can nail that, the rest of it will just fall into place.” (Watch the Kill the Messenger episode here; the line is around the15-minute mark.)

I don’t know about the rest of the book writing itself, but Castle’s right about beginnings being hardest.

This morning, I was catching up on blog reading and saw that writer Anita Nolan has beginnings on her brain right no

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6. 2010 FL SCBWI: First Pages

Today I’m wrapping up my series of the 2010 Florida SCBWI Mid-Year Workshop highlights.

For those of you who attend conferences, you might already know about First Page sessions. It’s where agents, editors, and authors read the first 250 words of anonymous manuscripts and then give their immediate reactions. This has become one of my favorite sessions because I always learn something that I can apply to my own work.

The following are responses and suggestions to First Pages from senior editor Alvina Ling (Little, Brown), Editorial Director Stephanie Owens (Disney-Hyperion), editor Brian Farrey (Flux), author Kathleen Duey and author Danielle Joseph.

Things that didn’t work in the First Page:

  • Passive starts with weather, setting, or character waking up.
  • Overly written paragraphs with too much narration.
  • Characters too precocious or too clever.
  • Flat character voice with no personality.
  • Too many characters introduced at once.
  • Characters that were too similar.
  • No conflict.
  • Too many adverbs.
  • Too much backstory.
  • Laundry-list descriptions. No need to “info-dump” all at once.
  • Too melodramatic. Action doesn’t necessarily mean explosions or death in opening scene.
  • Things that did work in the First Page:

  • Starting with a scene and showing character in action.
  • Good establishment of character within a setting.
  • Using specific details.
  • Sharp first sentence to pique interest to read more.
  • Getting into the character’s head and making the reader care or empathize.
  • Showing the story problem or hint of first obstacle.
  • Showing organic conflict without forced melodrama.
  • Intriguing character voice with unique characteristics and style.
  • Giving the reader credit by not over-explaining the novel world/setting.
  • These were only just a few of the reactions. The first page of your novel is the most important page that you may write. It’s the selling point for the reader to decide if they should invest time and money in your book.

    I hope that you’ve enjoyed the posts this week. I had a really great time at the conference. I highly recommend Florida SCBWI conferences — they are top notch and well worth the trip.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend. Get some writing done!

    5 Comments on 2010 FL SCBWI: First Pages, last added: 6/12/2010
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    7. What makes a great first page?

    I was casting about on Twitter for ideas on what to blog about, and author/illustrator Katie Davis asked the question, "What makes a great first page?"

    This reminded me of the wonderful post "Great First Lines" over at PW's ShelfTalker last week. One of the first lines quoted was from the book Quest for a Maid which, coincidentally, my assistant had recently quoted to me: “When I was nine years old, I hid under a table and heard my sister kill a king.” Isn't that great? I hadn't remembered I had actually read Quest for a Maid until I saw the book cover and read the summary online.

    Another favorite is the first line from Charlotte's Web: "Where's Papa going with that ax?"

    So what makes a great first page? When I go to writer's conferences, I'll often do a first page critique. The format of the critique isn't always the same, but for the most part it consists of a fresh reading/hearing. Someone (sometimes me) will read the first page of a book out loud, and then I'll let attendees know if, had the book been submitted to me, I would read more based on that first page.

    In general, what makes me read beyond the first page is what makes me read beyond that first sentence. (Although, in all honesty, I'll always read past the first page. I try to give a novel at least 30 pages. However, this doesn't meant that I don't make up my mind on the first page...more on that later.)

    The first page has to:

    -be compelling: duh. I have to be compelled to turn the page. Generally, it's great to have the first page draw the reader directly into the action. Save exposition for Chapter 2 or later.

    -give me an idea of what the book is going to be about: if I find a first page too confusing (without being intriguing enough), I tend to lose patience. Also, I want to know what kind of book this is from the first page: fantasy or science fiction? Historical fiction? Romance? Comedy? Drama? Sometimes whether I read more depends on whether or not I think there's a place for the book on both my list and my publisher's list. For example, if the voice and topic is exactly like a book we already publish, I'll read more just in case, but will find it easy to say no.

    -be well-written: I can definitely gauge how talented a writer is based on the first page. In fact, because authors know the first page is so important, they tend to spend a lot of time revising that first page (if they're smart!). So if I don't think the writing is all that good on the first page, I don't have high hopes for the rest of the book. However, if I personally find the first page to be sloppy or scattered or whatever, but it has at least one gem of a line, one flash of brilliance that gives me hope, I'll still give it a chance and keep an open mind.

    -have a strong voice: I need to get a sense of the voice right away. If the voice doesn't grab me, it's probably a no go. 

    -be relatively free of typos: one or two are maybe forgivable, depending on what kind they are (although if there continues to be one or more per page, I'd have to stop), but more is just plain sloppy and unprofessional, particularly on the first page. Others would say even one typo would make them give up, but I try to be

    5 Comments on What makes a great first page?, last added: 12/13/2010
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    8. First Page Tips

    On Sunday Susan O’Keefe wrote an article on what it is like on the other side of the fence at a First Page Session.   Today, Eileen Robinson has sent two tips to creating An Engaging First Page.  Then I throw in things I have observed while in First Page Sessions.  

    But first here is Eileen:

    First pages can sometimes make or break your chances with an editor.  And it is one of those things that challenge authors the most.  Having trouble with your first pages?  Here’s two tips:

    1.  Start with the moment the character’s life changes, start with the action.  Although it might not ultimately be where your story begins, it will give you a different perspective. 

    2.  Read your first pages till you come to a point where you get excited or your interest peaks.  Be honest.  Listen to your gut.  That’s a clue to where your story might begin and the rest is probably just back-story.

    Thank you Eileen.  I look forward to receiving more tips from you.

    It has become clear to me that an author needs to approach the First Page Session and their first page as though that is the only thing an editor will see.  A first page in a First Page Session differs slightly from what you would submit in that the text starts at the top of the page, instead of halfway down the page as you would if you were sending in your full manuscript. 

    Why does this matter?  Well, unless your text is so bad that the editor can’t get through the first few lines on your submission, they are going to turn the page.  In a First Page Session they can’t turn the page and read more, so you better grab them.  Many people I know have gotten contracts because they piqued the interest of the editor.  So here are my tips:

    1.  Look at your first page knowing that the second is not there.

    2.  Rewrite your first page making sure you have set it up to get attention.

    3.  Take out anything that slows the story down.

    4.  Make sure the first page is about your main character and not secondary characters.

    5.  Think Suzanne Collins and Hunger Games.  End that first page like she ends  her chapters.  She nails chapter endings.  I actually learned to stop reading in the middle of a chapter just so I could go to sleep.  If you read to the end, you have to read the next chapter.  Try to end your first page the same way.  If you are successful doing that, the odds are good that the editor will ask me after the session to let them know who wrote that page. 

    6.  Remember less is more.  Many authors try to squeeze in as much as they can on that first page.  That is a mistake.  Make sure you have enough white space.  Sometimes it is hard to sit and listen to someone reading a long first page.  If you are boring the audience, you probably are boring the two editors, too.  When you include too much, this is the result. 

    7.  Get in and get out quickly.  Only include the interesting and important points – things that move your story forward.  Read every sentence and ask yourself if you really need that line.  If not delete.  If it is an important point, does it have to be on the first page?  Would it fit in later on in the story.  Are there words in the sentence that are not needed?  If not delete.  You want that first page to be tight and easy to read.

    8.  So even though I am telling you to rewrite for the session, what you end up with may benefit your book and you may end up seeing that y

    8 Comments on First Page Tips, last added: 6/15/2011
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    9. First Page Tips from the Pros

    Last week, I outlined the notes on VOICE from the speakers at the SCBWI Florida summer conference. The other thing they spoke a lot about was...


    They spent a lot of time on first page critiques, reading each page aloud and commenting on what intrigued them, what needed work, which areas were confusing, and lines or phrases that appealed to them. Because the dreaded first page deprives all of us of sleep from time to time, here, in no particular order, are the tidbits I gleaned:

    • Nothing should be explained. Think of your characters as puppets whose strings you're pulling. Erase the strings so the reader can't see them.
    • Make sure that your characters are reacting to the scene/events, as opposed to the events being reported by you, the author
    • As interesting as settings are, people aren't drawn to them. They're drawn to characters. So don't let the setting overpower them or the overall story
    • If you've got a great line or phrase somewhere on the first page, juggle the content so that line comes last on the page.
    • Description: if the reader will assume it, don't describe it. This typically applies to hair color, furniture arrangement, etc. If you have to describe physical appearances, make them short and sweet--5 or six words, half a sentence.
    • In historical fiction/dystopian/fantasy: authors feel the need to anchor the reader in the unfamiliar world, but remember that descriptions on the first page have to be prioritized. Every detail on the first page should also tell about the character. Quality of writing is important, but so is quality of information.
    • Any physical activity that your character does, go and do yourself. Ride a helicopter, shoot a slingshot, walk in stilettos. Make sure your writing is authentic.
    • Physically walk through your scene. If it comes off clumsy in your living room, it will be even clumsier on the page.
    • Keep in mind the page visual. White space is inviting, long narrative blocks are daunting. Vary your sentence structure with this in mind.
    I'm always fascinated to hear knowledgeable people read and discuss first pages because they're able to pick out what's wrong right off. Most of us still on the journey to publication (and a lot who've already reached that goal) still have the blinders on and can't always see what's wrong, so I find this information helpful. Maybe with these tips, we'll all be one or two steps closer to getting that all-important first page right!

    55 Comments on First Page Tips from the Pros, last added: 7/13/2011
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    10. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

    Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
    Author: Gabrielle Zevin
    Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    ISBN-10: 0374349460
    ISBN-13: 978-0374349462

    When 17-year old Naomi takes a tumble down the steps one evening, she wakes without the past four years of her memory and holding on to a cute boy she knows nothing about. They get to know each other in the ambulance ride to the hospital.

    Naomi slowly starts to put her life together but there are so many things wrong with it. Like why can’t she remember Will, her best friend and co-chief editor of the school yearbook? She can’t remember that her parents are divorced or that she has a sister. Why can’t she remember ever kissing her boyfriend Ace? Matter of fact, she doesn’t even remember him. She reads her journal and doesn’t recognize her writing or her thoughts. Is she really this obsessed with how many calories she takes in each day? There has to be more to her than this.

    Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a fantastic story. It’s Naomi’s journey of self-discovery, of finding out just who she really is and what defines her as a person. It’s a second chance. As we get to know Naomi and her life, we’re completely involved, cheering her on, booing the bad decisions, stopping to take in her confusion and the realization that even with her memory back she’d be a changed person. She has a chance to choose the life she wants over the life she had before her accident. How great is that?

    The author of that marvelously quirky and different novel Elsewhere really shines with this one. The book is well written, the characters so real we feel we know them and the story is completely original and fresh. Highly recommended!

    Book Description from the publisher:
    If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d know about her mom’s new family. She’d know about her dad’s fiancée. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back.

    But Naomi picked heads.

    After her remarkable debut, Gabrielle Zevin has crafted an imaginative second novel all about love and second chances.

    About the Author
    GABRIELLE ZEVIN’s first young adult novel, Elsewhere, was an ALA Notable Book and a Quill Book Award nominee. Of her writing, The New York Times Book Review said, “Zevin’s touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities.” She lives in New York City.

    0 Comments on Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac as of 6/14/2007 1:42:00 PM
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    11. Twice Upon A Marigold

    How happy was I when this gem showed up in the mail? Very happy, indeed.

    When you think about it, much of Marigold and Christian's happiness was based on the fact that Olympia fell in the river but never came back. Well, guess what? She's back.

    Turns out that Olympia has been cooling her heels down the river in Granolha, in the home of the mayor and his wife. The thing of it is, Olympia cannot remember who she is. She has decided that her name is Angelica, and sweet Angelica in no way resembles meany Olympia. She is a good listener, and treats her friends well. All good things must end, however, and after about a year's time, Olympia remembers who she is and resurfaces in all her glory.

    Her aim? To get back to Beaurivage and set her plan back in motion. She just knows that her husband King Swithbert must have messed things up by now. Soon she is ordering the people of Granolha to do her bidding, rig her up a carriage, and get her home. She brings Lazy Susan along for the ride to act as her maid. (She is still resenting her sister Beauty's castle life and wants some for herself!).

    What follows is a fabulous sequel to Once Upon A Marigold that will simply delight fans. Many characters are the same, but developed more deeply. And the new characters like Mr. Lucasa are such fun! Filled with cheesy jokes, wordplay, and slapstick, this tale of friendship, family and loyalty will warm even the coldest hearts.

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