I’m always on the lookout for articles where literary agents give little nuggets of advice about the publishing industry. Each time I come across an interview I feel like I gain more knowledge about how my work fits into the business and perhaps how it will fair in the marketplace.
I began to think about other critical pieces of guidance I was missing. What did agents want to see in my first pages? I’d heard opening lines were critical. Was that true? What about starting with action rather than characterization? I scoured the internet seeing if any of my questions had been answered. While I found small mentions here and there, I could never get concrete answers.
What I quickly realized was I could use this blog to disseminate information I as a writer needed to know. And in turn, I could share this advice with others in the writing community. So on a big leap of faith, I started sending interview requests to agents. I know agents have more work than they can do, and most of the time the last thing they can do is answer an email from a small time blogger like me, but many were gracious enough to respond with a “yes.” Thus the FIRST FIVE FRENZY was born.
Now with five agents already sharing their perspective on what they want to see in a writer’s first five pages, I thought it would be helpful to recap their views and advice.
1) First Lines
Should be simple and set tone for the book. This is your chance to start the tension and build a relationship with the reader.
All the agents agreed that it’s best to stay away from dreams, descriptions of weather or immediate action. Another thing they were all quick to add was that too much description without any frame of reference was an instant turnoff.
3) Creating immediate agent interest
Characters need to show their worth from page one. Voice is key to drawing in the agent and encouraging them to request more pages. Another important element is grounding the reader – this link from Mary Kole helps detail the importance of this element.
4) Common mistakes
Starting in the wrong spot or beginning the story too early. Another issue is providing too much detail, otherwise known as the “info dump.” As Michael Carr put it best, “resist the urge to explain.”
5) Overall comments
Write for the reader. Interest comes from having an immediate connection to the main character and for subtlety adding details to build the story.
What questions do you have about your first five pages? Is there a question you’d be interested in asking to one of the agents? Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll try to work them into the upcoming interviews.