From Writer Unboxed:
Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.
Here’s the question:
Would you pay good money to read the rest of the chapter? With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents.
So, before you read the excerpt, take 30 cents from your pocket or purse. When you’re done, decide what to do with those three dimes or the quarter and a nickel. It’s not much, but think of paying 30 cents for the rest of the chapter every time you sample a book’s first page. In a sense, time is money for a literary agent working her way through a raft of submissions, and she is spending that resource whenever she turns a page.
Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre or content—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.
This novel was number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for May 23, 2021. How strong are the opening pages—would they, all on their own, hook an agent if they came in from an unpublished writer?
. . . .
Owen used to like to tease me about how I lose everything, about how, in my own way, I have raised losing things to an art form. Sunglasses, keys, mittens, baseball hats, stamps, cameras, cell phones, Coke bottles, pens, shoelaces. Socks. Lightbulbs. Ice trays. He isn’t exactly wrong. I did used to have a tendency to misplace things. To get distracted. To forget.
On our second date, I lost the ticket stub for the parking garage where we’d left the cars during dinner. We’d each taken our own car. Owen would later joke about this— would love joking about how I insisted on driving myself to that second date. Even on our wedding night he joked about it. And I joked about how he’d grilled me that night, asking endless questions about my past— about the men I’d left behind, the men who had left me.
He’d called them the could-have-been boys. He raised a glass to them and said, wherever they were, he was grateful to them for not being what I needed, so he got to be the one sitting across from me.
You barely know me, I’d said.
He smiled. It doesn’t feel that way, does it?
He wasn’t wrong. It was overwhelming, what seemed to live between us, right from the start. I like to think that’s why I was distracted. Why I lost the parking ticket.
We parked in the Ritz-Carlton parking garage in downtown San Francisco. And the (snip)
Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed