Saturday, February 7, 2009

First Pages

Post-degree life has given me time to wander through the library and take home a fat stack of books. What did I do today, with five new books in front of me?  

I read first pages.  

First pages have been coming up a lot. There was a first pages panel at last October's Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference. Editorial Anonymous has been critiquing first pages at her secret blog for the Anonymati. (Don't tell her I sent you- or at least be sure to learn the secret handshake.) I've been trying to figure out what should be on my story's first pages.

Of course, the writer in me wants agents, editors, and readers to flip beyond uninspiring first pages. It seems shallow to stop reading after a page or two- like not getting to know a girl just because she's having a bad hair day. (Believe me, I know about bad hair days.) C'mon guys, I want to say. Give me a chance.

But the reader in me just finished skimming the first pages.* I didn't even realize what I'd done till a few minutes later. The truth is, readers have choices- lots of them. It's not shallow to make the doorway to our story as inviting as it can be. 

Gotta go.  I have a book to read.

*I think Nathan Bransford made the think-like-a-reader argument a while ago.  Much better than I just did. But I couldn't find the link.


Lisa said...

My biggest proplem with writing my first pages is that there's so much to cram into them. I always feel I have so much to explain to the reader--introducing them to the characters, the world, and the conflict. Before I know it the action has receded to the background while the paragraphs of explanation get longer and longer.

I have to force myself to remember that it's okay for the reader to be confused in the beginning. That will draw them into the story. My favorite books are the ones that make no sense for the first ten pages. I keep reading to find out what the heck is going on.

I think it's my motherly urge that leads me to over-explain. I want everyone to be nice and comfortable and know what's going on.

Think I tend to coddle my son? Really I try very hard not to. I should put as much effort into not coddling my reader - let them fend for themselves. They're tough. They're hardy. Let them blaze a trail through the brambles for a while before I show them the path. (Not that I let my son do that. He's only two, after all.)

Sarah said...

I have (as you well know) to bury the beginning in a lot of description as well. I'm far from honing the first pages of The Looking Glass, but I'm already moving the point of entry way up.

(Poor Devils' Bridge! I loved that description!)

Good example about your son! Works for our characters as well as readers.