I love this time of year. The days are getting shorter, leaves are falling, and the holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite celebrations. I began working at The Wild Rose Press around this time several years ago. My name is Anne Seymour, and I currently work as an editor on the Crimson Rose line. I always love a good mystery, especially when the hero is as hot as the suspense.
The one aspect, in my opinion, that marks the difference between just a manuscript and a GREAT MANUSCRIPT is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES. During this critical point in a story, the author must pull the reader in and hook their interest, or the reader will become apathetic toward the characters—and probably not finish reading the book.
Sounds shocking, right? How can an author open a grand story, introduce sympathetic characters and evil villains, begin the action and conflict, but yet confine all above mentioned aspects to a mere FIVE PAGES? An insurmountable task one might say, right? But maybe not; let’s discuss the basics now.
First, we must unlearn all that we have learned previously about writing. I studied all the great works in Literature during college. James Fennimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, etc. wrote stories in omniscient point of view employing the writing method of “telling” the action instead of “showing” it. This technique removes the reader from the action of the story instead of insisting the reader to take part with the characters in the act. A reader must be immersed in the action and emotionally involved with the characters by the end of the fifth page of a story. Make the reader unable to do anything but participate with your characters.
Next, find an opening line that will grab attention. For example, “Take it easy. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” Sunny jerked her arms back hoping to slow the pace of the large-framed detective who continued to drag her from the bar with unwavering force. “Calm down, Wildcat. You’re only making it harder on yourself.” He didn’t slow his stride, or ease the firm grasp he had on her arm as he walked beside her.” In this example, (Some Like It In Handcuffs by Christine Warner—coming soon from The Wild Rose Press) the author introduces the hero and heroine within the first four sentences while adding humor and sexual tension. The reader is hooked now, determined to learn more and join the story.
Finally, make sure to include ONLY necessary information at this time. The first five pages are not for any of the following:
n Back-story: while back-story will be needed in any novel, it should never appear in the first five pages! Use back-story sparingly and only when needed throughout the novel, but never allow it to be longer than a few paragraphs at a time.
n Secondary Characters: Introduce these characters later in the story. Reserve the main characters (hero, heroine, & villain (if there is one)) for the beginning.
n Descriptive or Non-Action Scenes: Describe the setting later. The first five pages should not be filled with paragraphs of how beautiful the sky, trees and meadows are. Also, no Non-Action scenes! Start with a fight scene, a murder, etc. Grab attention.
While this is a brief overview, I hope I’ve mentioned good points to consider. If any are interested in another more in-depth discussion, please comment and let me know. I would be happy to offer another blog discussing this further. Until then, enjoy the season and keep writing!