More from the SCBWI Regional conference I attended a few weeks ago. If you've never been to one, the workshops always include a session on first pages. Attendees submit their first page and the facilitators read them aloud and critique.
These are a great way to learn what works and what doesn't. This time around there wasn't nearly enough time to get to all the pages. In 30 minutes they read only about six first pages, which in my opinion wasn't enough. Hey, we writers thrive on hearing professional opinions of our work, and although I submitted mine, I wasn't among the lucky ones to hear feedback.
But I'll share with you some notes on the pages that did receive feedback:
* The MC's name (main character) should have no cultural baggage--that's not to say you shouldn't use ethnic names or such, but that if a name brings a certain demographic to mind, be wary of how the image of your MC is portrayed to the reader.
* As always, less is more
* Give readers a chance to learn a little something about the MC .... Make them care. In every first page the facilitators read, this was mentioned. The action started too soon and neither the editor or novelist cared anything about who it was happening to. I think this is the biggest mistake writers make in their first pages. I've been guilty of it myself. We're told to start in the middle of the action, but we absolutely have to give a line or two that introduces the MC--a thought, an emotion, a quirk.
* Don't raise the stakes so fast ... ties in with above. If the reader doesn't care about the MC, why would they care about what's at stake? This is a big one I learned from the Plot Whisperer and Save the Cat too. There's a difference between the inciting incident and the catalyst, and knowing what that is can mean the difference between relating to the MC's situation, and not.
* Keep a focus ... This is not the time to sprinkle in back story or elaborate description. That will come later. Our first page should be about an MC and their immediate goal.
* Paint the scene.... Meaning, be artful about it. Anyone can relay details, but we're writers, our jobs are to be creative about it and make it vivid.
* Know where the MC is .... Meaning, when our scenes open up, we need a line or two to ground the reader and let them know where the MC is. A school? A spacecraft? A honkie-tonk bar?
BTW Christmas in July is happening over at Ruth Lauren Steven's blog. If you have a story ready, check it out. Today only for entries!
I've added a Query Project page to my sidebar so you can follow along my query journey. It's minimal at this point since I'm still revising here and there, but I'll do a post soon to introduce the project, and possibly a vlog. Hmmm, we'll see about that .... lol
How about you? Any first page tips to share? Have a great week!