Sunday, February 20, 2011

Project to Published: Why Those First Few Pages are Important

Project to Published

Why Those First Few Pages are Important

This is one area I agonized over when I was writing my first novel. The first ten pages of a book are very important because agents, publishers and readers will use those pages to decide if they want to keep reading. They must contain a hook, something interesting and a story that will shoot their eyebrows straight up to the ceiling.

No pressure, right? Ha.

Getting through that first chapter was really difficult for me. When I reached the second chapter, however, I noticed writing became easier, more fluid. The more I wrote, the easier it became. So, naturally, I turned back to my first chapter once I felt this way and tried to iron it out. Return of the frustration.
Pursing my lips, I turned back to the depths of my manuscript and kept writing. The fluidity returned and I tried again with that first chapter. Same situation. I finished my final chapter and edited my draft before returning once again to that infuriating first chapter. At this point I was beginning to imagine little gremlins of frustration that would pop out of my closet to agitate my mind solely for those few pages.

I did the best I could with the chapter and then I began writing my query letter. Still, I couldn't help feeling as though that first chapter was not as good as it could be. What didn't help is that I began receiving standard form rejections from agents who stated they were accepting manuscripts on their websites but had 'auto-away' messages that sent automatic responses to anyone who sent an e-mail.

Out of frustration and a small growing sense of despair, I grabbed the whole chapter, shredded it and started anew. To help my creative juices flow and to make me feel better, my fiancé made me chocolate chip pancakes (I don't have a chocolate addiction - honest!) and asked me why I had tossed those first few pages away. I did my best to explain it to him and that logical mind of his that makes my eye twitch pointed out that if I wasn't enjoying those pages, then I could hardly expect anyone else to be either.

Biting my tongue as he had just been very sweet with the pancakes, I acknowledged his point but further explained that I felt I couldn't get those first few pages right. He played with his fork for a moment before asking me why I was stressing out about my writing on those pages when I had written an entire novel that he felt, bless his heart, was already a best-seller.

As I raised my finger to explain about the hook and why it was so important, I suddenly realized his point. I had written another novel! Sure, it was a few pages off, but I had done what part of me had doubted that I could do. Once I realized that, and how writers are merely observers, that it is the story that tells itself, I just knew how the story should begin.

For those of you who are agonizing about those first few pages - STOP! Stop, take a step back, take a deep breath and remember what you are there to accomplish. You know inside of you what you need to say on those first few pages, how to capture the hearts and minds of agents, publishers and readers. Don't think about it - just do it. Craft those pages the way you know how to and then put a surprising twist in them that even you didn't see coming. Let your story take the driver's seat and those first few pages just might start to become clearer in your mind. I know mine did!

Emma Michaels


  1. great advice, i never feel entirely happy with my first chapter the first couple of times i look at it, but it will come together! :D

  2. I've worked hard on that hook chapter - and it may just need a little polishing. MAY.

  3. Great post!

    I agree with you there. Sometimes us writers over-think things.

    All we need to do is relax and sit with our work.

    Of course. I struggle with that.


  4. I still have a first chapter like that, but now that I've relaxed, I've found that the first chapter is one of my favorites (though I still haven't been able to fix that first one. Go figure). :)

  5. My biggest problem is I have a bad habit of not proof reading my work and then posting, Uggghhh the worst.

  6. I like your approach. Plow through it. Get it started. Worry about spicing it up later. I follow that route myself. Great post! :)

  7. Great advice. :) You do have to just jump in and get it over with. You can always go back if you need as well.

  8. I have just given you the 7 Facts Award. Click HERE to see it :o)

  9. Thanks for advice. Hope will be helpful to me soon.

  10. Such good wisdom, Emma. (Sweet boyfriend for helping you to see the value in manuscript.)