Friday, September 10, 2010

Killer Openings

STATUS: Off to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference at noon today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LAID by James

And I actually don’t mean it in the sense that it’s so good, I couldn’t put the manuscript down. I mean the openings that are guaranteed to kill your manuscript within the first 10 pages for an agent reading it.

And trust me, we won’t keep reading to get to the “good part.” The opening is everything when you are trying to get an agent’s attention.

A terrible and disheartening statistic is that for 90% of the submissions we receive, we won’t read beyond 2 pages. (I know. Ouch.) We know that quickly whether a) a manuscript is ready for an agent’s attention or b) if it’s right for us. Anything well-written, we’ll read all 30 pages of the submission before deciding to request a full or not.

But back to Killer Openings:

1. Opening pages that are nothing but backstory and explaining.

2. Opening pages with scenes that only do one thing (like have action but no character development or any other components that are essential to strong writing).

3. Problems with sentence structure, misuse or overuse of description, and basic grammar snafus.

4. Prologues (or chapter one) that sets up a faux conflict to “hook” the reader but then has very little connection to the following chapter—in tone, in the characters that are then introduced, in plot that unfolds immediately in the next chapter.

I see number 4 over and over again and it’s always a neon sign beginning writer mistake. Even the tone and writing styles of these openings differ greatly from how the rest of the manuscript is written.

I’m sure there are other killer openings and when I stumble on them, I’m happy to blog about it.

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