When I say someone I mean editors, agents, and most importantly, readers.
It only takes a few pages for someone to decide if they are going to like your story or not. You may have the best story ever but if your first pages are not compelling it will be a hard sell. A lot of articles on this subject talk about hooks but I found it confusing because I can never figure out what my hook is or I have too many hooks. LOL
My best advice is don’t write BORING. Use character, mood, and setting to draw and keep their attention.
You’ve written a whole book about a character you love. Now, you need to condense this character and show it off in the first paragraphs. You can use their voice or a short narration to grab your reader and have them fall in love with your creation.
“Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time rolling on the ground with men who think a stiffy represents personal growth. The rolling around has nothing to do with my sex life. The rolling around is what happens when a bust goes crapola . . . ” (Janet Evanovich, Hard Eight)
Setting is another tool you can use. Describe, see previous blog for description tools, something that entices and entrances by using the five senses.
“He stood at the window . . . framed by the faded curtains which she had chosen forty years before. The sun had bleached their bright roses to a faded pink, and the linings were so threadbare that they could no longer be sent to the cleaners for fear of total disintegration.” (Rosamunde Pilcher, Under Gemini)
Palpable mood can spellbind a reader. With the use of the right kind of adjectives, you can make your reader shiver with anticipation of what will come next.
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some . . . ” (Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World) [one of my favorite books by the way}
You have the technical tools now. Here is where you must pull the creative part from your soul and make writing an art. Get creative, break rules, and snap your reader to attention. DON’T WRITE BORING.
The first line of your novel is the most important one of the whole book. I rewrote the first line of Bait twenty-seven times before I found what it needed. “Live bait made all the difference, pretty much a no-brainer.” I chose to go with character since the whole series revolves around Connie. To come up with my first lines, I try to summarize the core essence of the story. Such as the bait reference for a book about being human bait. Or in The Alpha, “No one could call Spice Monroe weak, at least not to her face, yet she returned to Chicago with nothing but the clothes on her back. If only the strong survived, then why did she feel like such a loser?” This story condensed down to Spice’s struggle with belief in oneself.
Not BORING. No cliché lines, no AA introductions, and the story starts right away. Once again, I can’t stress getting creative.
Query letters, another very important thing, since it needs to pass through the gauntlet first before most editors or agents will read your wonderful first page. Many writers spend weeks editing and polishing their WIP then throw together a query/synopsis overnight. These things are just as important as the book. They represent your writing skill.
The query should contain a short open to the story and leaving them wanting more. Kind of like a blurb. I usually start my query with the tagline. Then you need to add the technical info of the book like word count, genre, and heat level. To end the letter give a quick resume such published works and contests wins. I don’t go into much detail. Mine reads like “I have # books published with such and such house and # with this other house. I have received many five star reviews and hit some of the bestsellers lists. For more detailed information here is my website.”
Synopsis should be written in present tense. Where in your story you should be showing your characters dilemmas, in the synopsis you need to tell them. It’s basically a summary of key elements, conflicts, and plot lines. You need to tell everything important, especially the end. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received on writing a synopsis is this: Tell it like your describing the best movie you’ve ever seen to your best friend.
“It turns out the rosebud, they’ve been looking everywhere for, is not a flower but a gemstone. They have to bribe their way out of jail and jump on a train across the country where John starts to fall in love with Jessica…”
Armed with these tools, go forth and catch someone's attention!