Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Your Chapter One

Okay, I'm going to take a break from my Confederacy of Dunces word project to help out some aspiring writers; not with the actual writing which could be impeccable, but with plot stategy.

After being a judge for a fiction manuscript contest, I found a method soon developed. The ten page, fifty page and hundred page method. I would assume this would be a generous method of rejection for most agents and editors. I learned pretty quick that if the novel doesn't start off good, it generally won't get better.

Let's just focus on thrillers, mysteries and suspense. You may have heard this but bare with me, please.

....start with a backstory. Read the start of your manuscript up to the part where something exciting happens and then start there. Plus, it's beneficial to have that total character development to refer to.

...start with a dream. You ever hear someone tell you their dream from the night before? An agent told me it's worse for them read least as a chapter one.

...start with a mundane activity believing the reader will get to know the character. No one wants to read about grocery shopping.

....start with a love scene.

....start with a murder

....start with a conflict

....start with a chase, a mugging, a fight, an operation, a verdict, a bank robbery, a prognosis.

Get it? An agent or editor is going to throw your manuscript in the slush pile, no wait, this is the digital age, they will delete your manuscript into oblivion after two pages if you do not grab them. If you're smart enough to write a novel that you believe will sell, then read the start of your novel with fresh eyes and judge it honestly. HONESTLY. If nothing is happening, nothing is going to happen.

You may say, but why do some published novels start off slow? I can't comment on how each individual author's manuscript's journey ended. I'm just commenting about those manuscripts searching for an agent.

For those who decide to self publish, these rules still apply. Word of mouth will not spread if no one is talking about it.