Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Grab Me Now

It's true. I'm giving you the opportunity to grab me. Really take hold, and hook on. That's what an editor does every time he/she picks up a manuscript from the slush pile.

I know you've all heard that you have three pages to hook the reader. In some cases that's being overly generous. Every word you write from the very first, must keep me glued to your story. Choose wisely, please.

The ever vivacious POD-dy Mouth has a fantastic entry on her blog from yesterday. For those of you who do not know, she is a published author in search of gold in the heaps of POD land to prove that there are fantastic self-pubbed books out there. Her article yesterday is a great example of how quickly a reader can say 'next'.

This is absolutely true for editors and agents. If you hook me through the first sentenance, I will keep reading through the paragraph. If that continues to interest me, I'll keep reading through the page. I'll admit that in a few cases I've been interested through the first few pages only to find myself loosing interest and still keep reading in hopes that what I found on the first pages returns. That's rarely the case, and it is very disappointing.

You might be calling foul right now. How dare anyone make assumptions based on the first few words? Well, I'll tell you. There is a lot to read. Piles and piles in fact. We never run out. I (and any other agent, or editor out in novel land) do not have time to read an entire manuscript just in case there's gold on page 140. There better damned well be gold on page 1. The competition is fierce, and this is a business based on 99% rejection. Oh, and yes, it really is possible to tell a person's style, and ability in the first few words, or pages if the first words are good.


Tempest Knight said...

That's why it's hard for me to start a new story. Those first lines have to hook the reader. And coming out with something like that it's pretty hard. It's easier for me to write all the other chapters and leave the first one for the end. I know it sounds whacked, but it works for me. *lol*

Thanks for the link to the article. It was very enlightening.

MissWrite said...

You're welcome, Tempest, and whatever way works best for you is the way that's right! :)

Erik Ivan James said...

Taken to heart, Tami. Thanks for the advice.

MissWrite said...

You're such a sweetie, Erik. I just bet your first words are sizzling.

Bernita said...

You're quite right, Tami.
Not being trained, I'd probably give a work a couple of paragraphs or maybe a page for story( that takes what? - 30 seconds?), but the first few lines can indicate if the writer has an adequate grasp of grammar, etc.

MissWrite said...

It's not even a matter of training really, Bernita. I honestly didn't believe it myself when I first started, and would beligerently read at least the first three chapters. After a little time doing it though, you realize it is true. What's even more true is it also applies to the public as readers.

The cover may grab them, the blurb may look interesting, but if they pick up the book from the store shelf and scan the first few lines, or page if it goes that far, it better grab them there, or there will be no sale.

Of course the rest of the book better be just as good. A lot of authors don't think about what impressions after the sale mean, but if your 'break out' novel gives the reader less than they hoped for, they're unlikely to purchase the next one out with your name on it.