Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stories Have To Start Strong and Get Better - Not Just Get Better

Writers are always complaining to each other, and even sometimes to the editors and agents they pitch to, that we don't give the book enough time to really get going. "Come on," you all scream, "Give my book a chance and you will see, by chapter 7 the book is amazing!" You know, it may be, but readers don't have the patience to do so.

I know that some of you (because you will likely reply to this) will tell me there are tons of books that had slow starts but turned out amazing in the end. That may be true, but the truly strong books, the ones that will do well are the ones that start out strong and only improve from there.

From page 1, the author has to really hook the reader. No, this is not just with some really catchy phrase, or with a great scene, but with the entire package. As an agent, I am looking to see if there is something really to this writer and if he or she has the nerve to really hit me with the good stuff from the beginning. If they do, I keep on reading.

As I said though, starting strong is not just with the phrases, it is the voice. Think of those people you meet at a party. You have never met the person but in those first minutes, you are so drawn to this person, you feel as if a magnet has sucked you in. This is what has to happen with the story. No, this isn't tecnique, but voice. It involves sentences that flow off the page, images that involve all of the senses, movement toward something and not just random action.

I honestly think that many of the writers out there are hung up by finding a great story idea but have no clue how to execute the darn thing. For that reason, we just quit reading.

So, what do I want to see?

1) You send me a query with a premise that is new, unique, fresh and already screams voice and potential.
2) The opening page shows me an honest command of voice. I don't want to see over-use of technique, but life.
3) I want to see characters I can come to love and hate.
4) I want to see movement
5) I want to see purpose.

Yes, these are vague but at the same level, pretty precise. In the end, hook me an keep me moving.



  1. This blog post is just perfect for me. Last night I lay in bed ready to delve into a new book. I picked up three library books all of which I put back down because they just didn't catch me.

    Voice is pretty much all I need in a book. If the voice doesn't resonate with me I just don't want to keep reading. Each of the books I put back down I read the first three pages. The one I ended up sticking with, Sundays at Tiffany’s, had me in the first paragraph.

  2. Dynamite post.