Shakespeare began every play with something special. It was designed to grab the attention of those closest to the stage. If he could get The Pit’s attention, he was golden. It’s no different for a novel writer. The Law of the First Five applies for us. The first five lines must grab the attention of the reader and the first five pages must hold it. Many refer to it as setting the hook.
When an agent expresses interest in a manuscript, he or she usually asks for the first X number of pages. A writer must get that agent’s attention straight away or the pages will be tossed. The agent knows that if he or she isn’t interested immediately, neither will the reading public.
This topic is of particular interest to our heroine as she rewrites her series, dear Reader. My first pages are coming together but are not ready for prime time. I took a look around the net for inspiration.
Andrew Jack’s Writing Blog addresses The First Paragraph, inspired by literary agent Nathan Bransford‘s First Paragraph Challenge. This is a double duty referral. First of all, do take a look at everything to do with that First Paragraph Challenge. Nathan Bransford wrote about the good, the bad and the ugly regarding what was submitted. Andrew Jack’s article gives some simple rules and suggestions about the first paragraph, too.
Write It Sideways has an excellent article titled How to Write a First Chapter that Rocks. This one not only gives advice, it links to examples of various great first paragraphs and pages. The differences among them may surprise you. I found encouragement here. Every story can begin with its own form of bang. The collection of links here is fantastic and the advice serves to reinforce the lessons to be found.
If You Give a Girl a Pen has some great advice about going beyond that first paragraph and keeping the reader’s attention in Your First Five Pages. There are tips and strategies here you may not have considered. It’s important to treat the first pages with keen focus. This article shows some ways of doing just that.
If after all this you don’t buy into the theory of the First Fives, I suggest you read the next article. In fact, give it a read either way. There’s great information to be found in Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog‘s article 7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Paragraph. It’s a guest column by Livia Blackburne. She wastes no time when she lists and explains each point. Save yourself some time and nail biting. Double check with this list before submitting your work.
Shouldn’t every paragraph, every page, even every word count? By all means. By the time your novel reaches publication, they will. To get that far, it will have to garner the attention of someone who can make that happen. Pay special attention to the portions that will grab the agent or editor’s attention. After all, those are the portions that will convince someone to be one of your readers.