Friday, June 18, 2010

First Pages Friday

I got an award from two very awesome ladies that requires sharing facts about myself and passing the award to, like, 15 people, so I'm just going to hold off until Tuesday to share that with everyone. But a huge thank you to Amparo Ortiz and Katrina Lantz for my Versatile Blogger Award!! You should all go see their lovely blogs and say hi.

I've been thinking a lot lately about first pages, and I thought I'd talk about it here today, even though must of you probably already know these things:

Prologues/Preludes/etc. are more often than not pointless. I realize most people want to drop the reader right into the action. They start with a prologue and then back up in chapter one. Don't. Find another way to do it. Some prologues work, the majority don't. I had a prologue in my 1st MS and I finally realized it was pointless; there was no reason I couldn't work all of that information in somewhere else. I'm not telling you to just delete the thing if you have one, but make sure you absolutely need it before you send it off to an agent, because most of them won't even read the prologue.

We've all read that our MSs should immediately pull our readers into the action and hook them. Yes, we need to make sure there is definitely something happening in those first few pages, but don't over do it. Don't drop your reader into a scene with more than five characters and expect them to remember everyone's names. Don't try to create tension by ignoring every single grammatical rule; it'll just give your reader a headache, especially if it's all block text, the sentences run on forever, and they can't tell who's saying what. You may want their to be a certain level of confusion, but there are better ways to create it.

Just because your first pages are supposed to have a hook in them, doesn't mean the rest of your MS can be as dull as a butter knife. Don't drop everything to explain the back story. Keep the plot moving forward!

If you enter into a contest or conference that offers critiques of your first few pages, do not apply that advice unless you are going to apply to your entire manuscript. Nothing sucks more than to read past the first 30 pages and have the quality of the writing drop considerably. Well, I'm sure something sucks more but right now I can't think of anything. 

Make sure your voice is consistent. If you say the MC of your YA novel is in high school, don't make him/her sound like she's 14 half the time and an adult the rest. 

If you're writing YA/MG, and I think most of us are, don't talk down to your reader. If you think they don't know a lot of the words your using, do not find a way to work the definitions into your plot. It's demeaning. There are words I don't know that I stumble across while reading, and I'm 20. I'll look them up if I can't figure it out from context clues, and I did the same thing when I was 12. Give your reader the benefit of the doubt, or find a better word.

And I just lost my train of thought, so that's it for today. Are there any other things you can think of that you should/-n't do at the beginning of an MS? I'd love to hear what you all think about the subject.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

These are great words to the wise! I think sometimes we get wrapped up in having everything be Action! Hook! Drama! without being true to the integrity of the story. And I was just critiquing a friend who wanted to add a prologue to "fix" a problem with her MS. I told her (from personal experience) that's not the way to go - fix the MS, don't patch with a prologue.

Thanks for stopping by Ink Spells! :)

Anassa said...

Oh good, nothing I'm doing!

I've heard that starting with dialogue, dreams, and characters waking up are generally bad ways to go, due to cliché and shear uninterestingness. But I've generally also seen that advice with the caveat, "but if you do it really well…".

Lydia Kang said...

Your advice is great! I am also wary of stories that start with kaboom action, just for the sake of action. That drives me nuts!

Jaydee Morgan said...

Good advice here - thanks for sharing. I hate to comment on prologues either way (it seems to be a hot topic) but I like what you say...make sure you need them or else find a way to incorporate that info into the story.

Kathryn said...

Congrats on your awards!

Yeah, I'm also not a fan of the prologue, but I never really noticed how irrelevant it was until I too tried using one in a ms. I came off as pompous and unnecessarily metaphorical and it was just horrendous. And agents hate them!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...


Talli Roland said...

Great advice - and congrats on the award. Hope you're having a fab weekend.


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