Sunday, November 25, 2007

The First Page

So these days reading slush for Ploughshares and Redivider, as well as working for Fringe, I'm reading a lot of pour-water-over-my-head-to-wake-myself-back-up, clamp-jumper-cables-to-my-nipples-to-wake-me-back-up, boring-as-rust first pages. Lizzie talked about cover letters a gazillion posts ago; I thought I'd do a sequel. Here's some thoughts on the first 300 words, because really, an editor can tell from page one whether the story is going to be good or not at least 90 percent of the time. So print this out, crumple it up, and eat it--that's supposed to work for memory. Three simple rules:

1. do something new.
2. start the story arc.
3. write a brilliant sentence.

Why? Because (1) editors are sleepy and they've probably already read 20 stories by the time they get to yours, (2) the most tiring thing in the world--more tiring than Thanksgiving--is waiting for a story to begin, and (3) the editor carefully reading your opening sentences should be given a reason to continue doing so. I think if I don't get two of these three things in the first page, the monster under my bed ends up finishing the story. He likes to eat paper too, but not for memory. He likes it because "it tastes like smart."

1 comment:

Richard Thomas said...

Fantastic, so you could actually be rejecting my work in THREE places. :-) Kidding. Mostly.

But I agree 100%, that narrative hook, that opening line needs to LEAP off the page.

And keep up the great work Fringe, love the new look and all.