A tip a day to keep the rejections away
Welcome to my marathon of writing tips—one tip a day to make you a better writer.
What are my qualifications? For several years, I’ve written the Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper. I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine. I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.
Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.
Abbreviations as follows:
MS = manuscript
CP = critique partner
WIP = work in progress
POV = point of view
MILE SIX = YOUR FIRST FIVE PAGES
The first five pages of your MS are critical. Get used to seeing them, because you’ll be rewriting them a lot. But don’t get too attached. The first page, even the first 250 words, can be tricky. In a few paragraphs, you need to establish the MC’s voice, set the tone, and introduce the main conflict. You’ve either got to hook the reader (or agent) by then, or they won’t turn the page.
In time, you may discover that you’ve started your book several scenes too early, or a little too late. Writing, rewriting, and asking others for feedback are the only ways to improve.
First, submit your first few pages to your critique group and ask the following questions: “Do you like it? Are you hooked? Do you want to read more?” Use their feedback to revise and resubmit over and over again, until they’ve seen your first page so many times they’re friggin’ sick of it. :.)
Then email the first few pages of your book to your non-writing friends (but choose ones who actually like to read). Ask them the same questions. Tell them to be honest. Then incorporate their feedback.
After this, you can enter on-line contests and workshops, and ask complete strangers what they think of your intro. I highly recommend Adventures in YA Publishing’s “First Five Pages Workshop”: http://firstfivepagesworkshop.blogspot.com/p/workshop-rules.html?m=0, but keep in mind it’s only for YA literature.
The down side of asking so many people what they think is the difficulty in dealing with conflicting opinions. The more people you ask, the more likely they won’t agree with each other. Such is life.
Don’t forget to check your resources. Yank all your favorite books off the shelves and peruse their first five pages. What drew you in? Use what you learn to emulate, not duplicate.
Keep working, and don’t lose hope. You WILL eventually perfect your first five pages, but it may take time (and about 500 revisions) to get there.
See you tomorrow for Mile Seven!