Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Fiction Writers: Grab The Reader and Don't Let Go!

In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass describes an observation study of lunchtime browsers in a New York bookstore. 

He relates the fact that the vast majority of people who were observed picking up a book, spent moments to minutes scanning the first page only.

They then did one of two things: they put the book back on the shelf, or took it to the cashier.

This type of reader/book buyer behaviour might explain why agents and publishers put so much stock in the opening paragraph/s of your manuscript. And also explains why prologues in beginner writers' novels might make it even more challenging to get an agent's attention.

I've spent more time on the opening pages of my last novel than anywhere else in the book, and I'm still not happy with it. It seems that to be effective the opening page has to do many things: entice the reader to want to read on; foreshadow significant events or character traits; clearly sound the narrator's voice and the writer's style, and above all, connect with the reader's emotions.

For tips on strengthening your opening page/s, see Mr. Maass's book and Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.

If you have any thoughts on opening paragraphs/pages I'd love to hear them.

Otherwise, keep writing.

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