Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Exercise On First Impressions

First Impressions are powerful things. I know, because I've blown my fair share of them. For instance, I will never be able to go back and redo my first day of high school with that extra tight permanent (shudder), or even re-meet my hubby for the first time. Firsts only come once.

That's why we're lucky as writers, because we get to practice and revise our firsts--well the pages at least. We can envision and re-envision them until they feel perfect. Then we can do it again. And again. And yet again. Lucky us.

But should we? Is it really that important?

I used to think that all the emphasis on first pages was bunk. How could an agent or editor really get a feel for the whole book in just 150 words? How could a reader? Doesn't the rest of the book need to be just a good? Yes, but after I had the opportunity to help judge several first page contests I changed my mind about beginnings.

First pages tell volumes.

They set tone, showcase ability, and promise story. They evoke emotion. At least they should. And they should reach out, grab you by the imagination, and refuse to let go.

They should captivate on some level.

Easy peasy, right?


It's like trying to nail jello to a tree--only more painful.

But it's worth it.

If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. Right now at Throwing Up Words they are having a first page contest, and you get to be a judge. There are a lot of first pages and a lot of revelations on how important first pages are. There are even pages that just might be written by some of the crew here at Scribblers Cove. I won't tell you who because all the entries were submitted under pen names, but you are free to guess. You can vote on your favorite six until Thursday, January 26, 2012. Vote by clicking on the Project Writeway Results link at the top right of the blog.

And have fun!

Leisha Maw


  1. Thanks for posting about this, Leisha! I've been working on my votes... got it down to my top 16 now... it's hard!

    But it really, really makes me look at my first 150 words. Are they as good as they should be? As good as they could be? I know when I'm looking for a book, I flip open the front cover and read those first 150 words. If they don't catch my interest, the book goes back on the shelf. Something to think about.

    1. It was hard. I had to do the same thing, narrow, then narrow again.

      And I do the same thing in the book store. :)

  2. I've learned a lot in the past by doing this - reading and judging a lot of first pages. I think it's tremendously important, and not just to agents/editors. I've had lots of people tell me they were hooked from the first page/line/chapter of my book (Open Minds) - or even the blurb/title/hookline.

    1. First page does matter. Glad you voiced this.
      I get a feel for an author and it's a buy or don't buy in the first few paragraphs.
      Do it well and sell.

      Another fine post!

    2. So true. You both said it so well. :)

  3. Of course you can't write the magic 150 words that everyone will love. My daughter and I compared our votes, and we obviously have different tastes. Some we agreed on, some we totally disagreed. And this is why we need EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU AUTHORS OUT THERE TO WRITE BOOKS! Your book is going to be someone's favorite book of all time.

    1. We compared notes here, too. Very different on some and similar on others. I love that difference doesn't mean bad, just an expression of preferences.

    2. This is also why you submit to LOTS of people before you feel you have to change anything. It may be you just haven't found your match yet.

  4. As a writer, the first page is daunting. It's great getting to read and judge others' first pages, because then you start to get it. You can see which ones immediately grab you and don't let you go - and it's easier to see what I need to do.

    And yup, no matter what people say, when it comes down to choosing between two excellent entries, I lean toward the genres that I like. I'm sure others do too - so I hope the writers that don't make it past this round won't take it personally. This is a great contest with wonderful entries.

    Leisha, thanks for the link and a great blog! I hope everyone votes!

  5. This sounds awesome, I'll have to go check it out! I always love reading first pages, especially first lines. :)

  6. People are often disgusted when they hear of editors tearing through a slushpile, tossing a manuscript in the garbage every few seconds - that is until they try reading a bunch of unpubbed first pages. It isn't unfair. You really can tell whether a writer has a grasp of their craft, the characters, and the story in this space. Thanks for the post, Leisha! (I write my first pages last.)


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