If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.
The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.
Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Mollie Glick’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.
Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?
Mollie: As long as it’s grammatically correct, I don’t put that much weight on the first line, but I DO look to the first paragraph and the first page to tell me whether I like the material enough to keep reading.
Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?
Mollie: Ha— yes, dream sequence openings are one of my pet peeves! But I think rather than steering authors away from certain topics, I’d steer them toward opening with a scene that simultaneously introduces the voice of the book, tells us something interesting about the main character, and gets the plot moving. If you can do all three of those things in a dream sequence or while riding in a car, I’ll put up with it.
Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?
Mollie: The voice! A manuscript with a distinct, engaging voice will keep me reading. Whereas a manuscript with a muddled voice will lose me— even if the premise is good.
Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?
Mollie: One of the biggest mistakes first time writers make is to send me material with a note saying that the book “really picks up” after page 50. Editors won’t stick with something that long, so I can’t either. If you know your first 50 pages need work, it’s worth spending the time to make them sing before you start contacting agents.
Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?
Mollie: All of the above. I know I’m going to take a novel on when I open it up and fall right into the story. If I can’t put a book down, the odds are that editors won’t be able to either!
Mollie Glick is a literary agent at Foundry Literary + Media. After graduating from Brown University , Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to Americanbooks. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before switching over to “the other side” in 2003. Mollie’s list includes literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, and a bit of practical non- fiction. Some of her recent projects include New York Times bestseller Jonathan Evison’s WEST OF HERE (Algonquin); Daniel O’Malley’s THE ROOK (Little, Brown); Elizabeth Black’s THE DROWNING HOUSE (Nan A. Talese); Dr. Tracy Alloway¹s THE NEW IQ (The Free Press); Lenore Skenazy¹s FREE RANGE Kids (Jossey Bass); and Gennifer Albin’s CREWEL (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux). In addition to her work as a literary agent, Mollie also teaches classes at Media Bistro and The Grotto, and has written articles on non-fiction proposal writing and query letter writing for Writers Digest.
If you’re interested in submitting to Mollie, please make sure to check the Foundry Literary + Media website for their guidelines.