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. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.
Today, I’m proud to share Lauren Spieller’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?
Lauren: The first line is important, but it’s not a dealbreaker if it needs tweaking, or even a rewrite. What’s more important to me is that the opening pages have tons of voice and conflict that hook me from the get go.
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?
Lauren: I’d stay away from scenes in which characters wake up with no memories, scenes so packed with action that we have no time to get to know the character, and scenes that focus more on “telling” us about the character than “showing.”
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?
Lauren: Voice + gripping conflict = request!
Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?
Lauren: Focusing on backstory, starting the conflict after the inciting incident (or too far before it!), cramming the pages with too many characters to keep straight, and relying on clichés.
Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?
Lauren: Voice really resonates with me. The first pages should provide a snapshot of who this character is and what matters to them, as well as what their conflict is (or is going to be!)
TriadaUS Literary Agent Lauren Spieller has a background in literary scouting and editorial consulting. She has a sharp editorial eye, and is passionate about author advocacy. Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as commercial Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse voices. Visit www.triadaus.com for her full wishlist.