Tag Archives: queries

Turn your “first five” pages into fireworks

If you are querying (fiction) right now, like me, you will have learned, or are about to learn, the astronomical importance of your first five pages. They must be stellar. Genius. Da bomb. According to Elizabeth Sims, the very prospect of writing these pages “should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you.”

I am working on a new Young Adult (YA) manuscript and once again, am squaring off with my first five pages. They have gotta rock. And they must be “honest, original, and brave” (thx Liz). So, in search of inspiration and technique tips on how to make my pages rock—and roll, I find myself on Jane Friedman’s award-winning blog, There Are No Rules. This is my ultimate go-to site for help and advice from the pros. This woman is on fire; she is a vault of information awesomeness for writers, like you and me. And who doesn’t love a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor?

Let’s talk about the opening of your novel. Very few agents or editors will even read beyond the first page, first five pages tops. If your opening doesn’t grab them, you are paper toast. In those first five pages, you have to establish a hook, introduce a protagonist, highlight the main story problem, and establish the story’s setting, genre, and tone. And of course, not neglect your job of entertaining the reader. Page turns. You need page turns (or finger swooshes for all you e-readers out there).  

Jane has critiqued thousands of first pages and offers a superabundance of advice for compelling openings and killer characterization. She also did this really cool thing where she tweeted a stream of tips for opening pages. Score!

My top 10 favourite tweeted tips from Jane’s First-Five Critiques:

  • Don’t start stories that start in the conditional perfect. Just get to the REAL world, please!
  • Avoid dialogue that offers mini-biographies of people (to fill reader in on back story).
  • Avoid story openings w/characters asleep or waking up. Almost as annoying: Openings w/characters watching other characters sleep.
  • Most difficult part of 1st page critiques: Many writers have not found rhythm yet. Best way to illustrate, click here.
  • Problematic: Opening up w/character’s inner monologue, contemplating themselves/life. Are you as good as Dostoevsky?
  • I love an opening that in 300 words can make me really fall in love with (or hate) a character. I’m hooked!
  • I do not recommend you start your story w/character thinking, “This isn’t happening.” (This opening is in fact quite common!)
  • Very tough: Starting your story w/dialogue & little/no indication of who is speaking or what context is. Readers get lost.
  • Most writers overwrite. More detail/description, more explaining than needed. Even I do it. But you have to go back & cut cut cut!
  • Least favorite opening: Description of perfect weather outside, w/character waking in bed, peering out window, thinking about day.

Follow Jane (@JaneFriedman) on Twitter.

Looking for additional resources?

8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs the Reader at Page One, by Les Edgerton

“Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.”

                                                                                                    ~Elizabeth Sims

Time to go turn those first five pages into fireworks! Katy Perry would be proud.

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing resources

Links We Like

Inspired by the sassy dames over at AdHoc Mom, we’ve decided to give you a weekly roundup of links that caught our eye. Some will be related to writing, some will be entertaining and some will be slightly kooky. So without further ado…

Restless Lori:

So Am I an Author Yet?
The third post on writer C-C Lester’s blog was Freshly Pressed and in it she ponders when she can legitimately (in her mind) put “author” on her immigration forms at the airport. I suspect that time is now.

The Literal Hen House
Morgan is one of those rare mommy bloggers who is also a fantastic writer. And now she has chickens. In her backyard. In the city. I find this utterly fascinating.

Watch the 150 Greatest Movie Lines
I am a freak for the Academy Awards – everybody who knows me will not bother trying to call me after four o’clock eastern on Sunday night. Around this time of year, great little retrospectives like this one come out and remind me all over again why I love the movies.

Restless Bjas:Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)

Beth Revis (Across the Universe)
Beth writes science fiction and fantasy novels for teens. Her debut novel, Across the Universe is pretty awesome, and so is she. I have spent a lot of time on her site lately as she has some kick-butt resources and advice for writers–even links to her query (that rocked!). The best Q & A from the site:

Q: I wrote a book! I’ve queried it! But no one cares, and I don’t have an agent yet. What should I do next?

A: Write another book. I’ve never heard a fellow writer say, “I wish I hadn’t written a second book,” but I’ve heard more than one say, “I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on the first one.”                       ~Beth

Quick Brown Fox
If you’re in Ontario, this is a great blog with creative writing course and workshops for writers. I check it frequently as Brian does a terrific job of posting Literary Agents (and new agents on the scene) who are looking for “stuff.”

The Orangutan and Hound
Well, because if you like animals you will love this video. Humans are not the only beings with interspecies friends.

Restless Maria:

Reorbit
Think you could animate a historical or literary figure, write a play based on that person’s actual or imagined life, and tweet it as live social media theatre? That’s what the good folks at @reorbitproject are up to. (My dear friend Nicola Danby is tweeting as the Who’s notorious drummer, Keith Moon.) This is the flashiest of flash fiction!

Wordle
This is the most beautiful way to art-ify your writing. I’m thinking of applying it to my story about Eleanor the Assistant Copyeditor to see what happens. Try it out!

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Filed under Friday Links

Let us write! Let us write! Let us write! (sung in a falalalala kind of way)

Holiday meetings are the best.

Our writing group held its final meeting for the year and oh what fun it was! There were pretty gifts and sprinkled cupcakes—and heck, even prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. And PAGES; yes, we managed to consume treats, whilst still making time for each of our critiques.

We worked through 2 queries (1 rated PG-13; 1 rated G), 1 red carpet synopsis, 1 alien picture book manuscript, and 1 sleep-inducing essay (or not) for the insomniacs among us. We were also fortunate to receive personal feedback from LD’s 6 year-old son, aka the Simon Cowell of children’s literature, who we lured a critique from with Lindt chocolate Kinder eggs.

All in all, it was a productive meeting, with ‘minutes’ to boot, albeit recorded on a yellow sticky note (the jumbo kind—with lines). It was a terrific meeting, stuffed full of encouragement and advice (and a party dress exchange?) as we journey the road together to that paranormal place called publication.

And so, for the record, here are the sparkly business bits.

Restless Writers commitments for 2011:

  • LD: to tweak her query & synopsis for sending to agents in January
  • LD: to do a proposed table of contents for her humour non-fiction project
  • LD: to submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • MM: to revise her sleep essay for submission to the Globe & Mail
  • MM: to clear her plate of indexes (for good, this time)
  • BJ: to revise her picture book and send the baby to agents
  • BJ: to continue querying her middle-grade fiction

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all! May you have the time, the wine, and the gusto to write your pants off this season.

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Motivation