My favorite part of the day was An Agent Reads the Slush Pile with super agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. All attendees of the workshop submitted their first two pages for Kristin to read aloud (anonymously, of course!) as if they had come across her desk from the slush pile. As she read each one, she explained to the class when she would have stopped and why. There were a handful of standouts that she would have asked to see more pages from. Most of what she explained were the tried and true tips I've read in a lot of places:
- Watch the use of a prologue.
- Don't open your novel with a dream sequence, someone waking up, or any kind of bodily function.
- Don't overload your first pages with exposition or too much background.
- Sometimes as writers we tend to break up a scene with extraneous information. It's best to be mindful of how and when we pepper in any commentary. Sometimes that extra information can get in the way of the action and stop the flow of the scene.
- Some of the best opening lines can be found two or three paragraphs in. The first line of a novel has to grab attention. We don't need to read the first page and find ourselves in the middle of a fight scene, but you can't afford to have a lackluster opening. There were several examples where the perfect first line - either witty, scary, or strange - was buried under paragraphs of exposition.
Educate yourself about the topic in this post: