The first line of a manuscript might be the most important one. If the agent isn’t hooked by it, chances are the story will end up in the slush pile. But catching an agents eye goes beyond the first line and into the paragraphs that follow. C. Lee McKenzie offers a series post on First Lines, with tips on what works and what to avoid (here, here, and here). Even though the contest is over now, Dawn Allen’s interview with Les Edgerton gives great advice on catching and keeping a reader’s interest.
Since I plan to participate in the Catch Me If You Can blogfest, I decided to put together a list of quick tips for first pages:
- Make sure the first line hooks readers and conveys the overall tone of the story.
- Avoid backstory/flashbacks in the first pages, if possible.
- Cliché opening scenes turn off agents and readers, so don’t write them. [Tips, tips, and just for fun, the submission guidelines for Strange Horizons (an online speculative fiction magazine) which list stories they see often. Confession: some of my stories fall into these categories, but I’ve tweaked them, and now they’re better.]
- Introduce the main character and his/her goal as soon as possible, and in an interesting way.
- Vanquish passive sentence structure.
- HAVE FUN WRITING!