May 29th, 2009


last reminder for Diabetes Auction

Bidding is still open for Brenda Novak's Auction to raise money for Diabetes Research. But tomorrow is the ending date.

I am offering a critique of a fiction proposal -- first three chapters (up to 50 pages) of your unpublished manuscript, plus synopsis (up to 5 pages). The official listing is here.

letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 57
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: N/A

No, that's not an error. I really did only manage to read that many queries this week. Not counting the week I was away for the London Book Fair (during which I read no queries at all), this week is now this year's lowest for the number of queries read and responded to. And the incoming pace didn't slow in the slightest (it might even have gone up again over the last couple weeks, I think). I had been gaining on response times but this week wiped that out.

This incredibly busy week also means I haven't had much time to think about an idea for a query wars entry. But, after last week's post about the first five pages and Agent Kristin's post last night about "the number one thing" opening pages lacked at the workshop she did at the Backspace conference (preceding BEA), I wanted to say this:

What do I think is the purpose of the first five pages?

To get me to want to read page six (and hopefully 7, 8, 9, etc.).

They don't need to be perfect. In fact, watch out for over-editing because that can make them seem stale. They do need to be exceptional.

These pages don't need to have bombs going off or start with a big action scene. Though starting in media res can be helpful -- watch out for backstory that can bog down your opening. Someone recently repeated to me this advice: "Start the story as late as you can."

Obviously, the whole story is greater than the sum of its parts. I'm not expecting to know everything about the book in just five pages. That's not why I'm reading them. I'm looking for a sense of things. The writer's style or voice, perhaps. A compelling character. A strong plot hook or concept. A taste that makes me want more.

All they have to do is get me to turn the page (or hit page-down in my email) and want more when there isn't any more.

Pick up the nearest novel you have at hand and read the first page. What makes you want to keep reading? Or what makes you want to skip it for something else?