Saturday, April 27, 2013

X = 7 Reasons Agents Might Give Your First Chapter an X


The dreaded first chapter, or even the first paragraph of your novel. That's all the time you have to impress an agent into asking for more. So here are some tips on what not to do, unless you like seeing how fast an agent can lose interest in your novel.

Previously, I attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback.
This is how it worked: An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first 250 words out loud for the panel and the audience. If at any point a panelist felt he would stop reading, he raised his hand. The actress read until two or more panelists raised their hands, at which point the panel discussed the reasons they stopped, or in cases where the actress read to the end, they discussed what worked. Helene Atwan (Director of Beacon Press) and agents Esmond Harmsworth, Eve Bridburg, and Janet Silver (all from Zachary Shuster Harmsworth) served on the panel.
These panelists were tough! I’d say less than 25% made it to the end of the passage. Here are some of the common reasons panelists stopped reading.
1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn’t really inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you’re writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.
2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information. 
Click here to read tips 3-7 at Writer's Digest.

Click here to enter for a chance of winning Angel Eyes until the 30th!

3 comments:

  1. Anyone who can leave their ego at home would really benefit from that kind of honest feedback. Great idea and I bet really fun to watch. I'm a reader not a writer, I judge a lot of books on their first page, wrongly on occasion.
    #atozchallenge
    maggie at expat brazil

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great tips! I'm revising work before sending it to an editor and these are good reminders. New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to visiting again.

    Sylvia
    http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have personally written the dreaded boring beginning, and have since learned my lesson! No just-getting-out-of-bed, or eating breakfast or making tea, or ergh, driving somewhere and pondering life. As a reader, I can get past a clunky first page, but a really engaging first page pulls me in much quicker.

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