Here’s an article titled “Why Editors Focus on Page One” by Darcy Pattison and featured on Jane editor/author Friedman’s blog. I was happy to see so much agreement to my approach here on FtQ.
BTW, why aren’t you guys submitting chapters for flogging? It’s a free critique and fresh eyes to help you make your opening stronger. Send chapters/prologues as attachments for a “flogging” today.
Darcy offers this lovely metaphor about your first pages:
"The first pages of a novel encapsulate much of the story and are extremely important in establishing setting, character, pace, audience, tone, and voice. First pages give readers a door knob to turn, an opening to the whole story."
She goes into three reasons why editors can tell within a couple of pages if a manuscript will be acceptable.
- Too little information. This is akin to my notion of scene-setting and engaging the reader with a character.
- Too much information. You’re familiar with my guidelines of no backstory and exposition. Same here.
- No opening scene. Yep, in my list it’s called “something is happening.”
I suggest you read the article for her notions on these critical issues of an opening page and on striking the right balance. She gives an example of an opening from a memoir that strikes that balance.
After questioning the excerpt as to clarity (one of my big issues), info dumping, and characters, she includes this:
"The final question is subjective: would you read on?"
Send your first chapter/prologue soon to see if you're on track to a page-turn.
Note: page image borrowed from Jane’s post.