A few months ago, I started singing lessons. My instructor assigned me to learn “Royals” by Lorde, and over the next few weeks, we worked together on that song. Then one week, my instructor abruptl…
Poems on We Heart It
I absolutely adore Angela Nissel. She is the sweetest person, and she is an absolutely brilliant writer. I highly recommend these books—they are absolutely hilarious, and I think that each contains things that everyone can relate to.
Snippet of ‘The Broke Diaries’ (from Angela’s website):
On buying ramen noodles: I am sooooooo embarassed. I only have 33 cents. I (please don’t laugh) put the money on the counter and quickly attempt to dash out with my Chicken Flavored Salt Noodles. The guy calls me back! I look up instinctively, I should have run … Why didn’t I run???!! He tells me the noodles are 35 cents. I try to apologize sincerely. I thought the sign said 33 cents yesterday, so that’s all I brought with me. Could he wait while I ran home and get the 2 cents? I show him my student I.D. to let him know I am not a thief. He shakes his head and motions either for me to get the hell out of his store and never come back again or get the money as do come back. I don’t know. He said something like “Nyeh” and swiped his hand in my direction. I can’t translate hand motions well.
The noodles: tasty!!!
Imagine this: you’re walking around a bookstore and a book catches your eye. Maybe it’s the cover, or the title, or the author or a combination of those factors, but something makes you pick up the book to take a closer look at it. After reading the back cover copy, it still sounds interesting, so what’s the next thing you do?
Chances are you aren’t walking over to the counter to buy it yet—you’re going to sample it first by cracking it open to the first page.
From there, one of two things happen: either the writing grabs you and you bring the book to the counter or make a mental note to buy it later, or you lose interest and return it to the shelf. Two very different results based solely on whether or not you like what you find on that first page.
I don’t know about you guys, but when sampling a book, I generally read until I don’t want to anymore. If I’ve made it to the end of the first chapter (or however long the sample is, in the case of e-books) and I’m still interested, I’ll buy the book, or at least add it to my TBR list. If I lose interest somewhere before that (even if that “somewhere” is in the first sentence), I put the book back and move on. And as I understand it, I’m not the only one who samples books in a similar manner.
The thing is, when a reader picks up your book, your first page carries the very heavy responsibility of grabbing their interest and not letting go for anything. There’s no such thing as a throwaway sentence in your first 250 words—every line must make the reader want to read the next, or it doesn’t belong there.
Your first page must:
- Hook the reader. Whether the reader is an agent, editor or someone contemplating whether or not to buy your book, the first page is your only chance to grab their attention.
- Introduce your protagonist. This pretty much goes without saying, but we need to meet your protagonist just about immediately if you hope to grab interest.
- Make your readers care. In most cases your readers aren’t going to fall in love with your protagonist in the first 250 words, but by the end of the first page they should have a good sense as to why they should care about your protagonist’s plight, which leads me to…
- Hint at conflict. This doesn’t mean that there needs to be a gun battle on the first page, but we need to get a sense (even if it’s just foreboding) that something isn’t quite right, or that something will happen very soon.
It’s a lot of work for just 250 words, but it’s truly essential to a successful first page, and it’s why publishing professionals often advise against starting a novel with a character doing menial, everyday tasks (ergo brushing teeth, getting ready for school, etc.). When revising the beginning of your WIP, I recommend taking a good hard look at that first page to see if it accomplishes those four tasks. It might just be what you need to pique someone’s interest in your work.NOTE: After writing this post I found this very informative post by agent Laurie McLean on the first pages of a WIP including some very helpful dos and don’ts. Definitely check it out.
In your opinion, how important is the first page of a novel? How long do you usually read when sampling work?
do you ever just want to slap your character
I JUST WANT A FANDOM FOR MY BOOK IF IT’S EVER PUBLISHED. I WANT PEOPLE TO CRY OVER THEIR ‘OTPS’ AND MAKE EDITS AND MESSAGE ME THREATS THAT I BETTER NOT DO ANYTHING
I WANNA TROLL THEM
I WANT THEM TO MAKE PLAYLISTS AND CRY TOGETHER.
I WANT A FANDOM
i really hate it when people say you shouldn’t use the computer or watch tv before going to bed and instead you should read a book because you need winding down time or you won’t sleep. ha ha good one do you know what happens if i start a book before bed?! i end up fucking finishing it that’s what
As a writer, I believe there are times to read and times not to read.
My rules are as follows:
Times to read: Before writing a novel, or in between novels.
Times not to read: Whilst writing a novel.
Here’s my thinking on it.
As I focus more and more on my writing career, I find I’m reading less and less for enjoyment. When you are a writer, reading someone else’s work is studying. Research.
You are seeing what they did right and you are seeing what you would change. For example, when you are preparing to write a Young Adult novel, you better have read a lot of Young Adult novels. I personally consider it a necessity, because we can learn quite a bit from mimicking those who were successful. They were successful for a reason.
Not to mention, if you do not like reading within a genre, you will most likely have difficulty writing within it as well. Let’s get to that later.
Your story may be dandy, but different writing genres tend to have different guidelines. You can act out a generic romance scene if you’ve seen more than one romance movie. You will write a genre better if you have seen it before. Helps to avoid clichés too.
So then why NOT read while writing?
Because being inspired by the form of the genre is one thing, whereas being influenced by an author is another.
We develop our writing by what we read, that’s how it works. So by all means have your writing idols. I do. But during the process of completing my own masterpiece, I choose to keep a pronounced distance from all other’s writing.
I find it too easy for my work to be subconsciously altered based on the voice of another writer. Especially for new writers, we are very malleable when it comes to our ‘style’ at this stage.
Something to think about, even if it is just my paranoia.