Friday, September 18, 2009

Importance of writing a pearler of a first page!

Thanks to a chat with a lovely writing buddy, I've been pondering the importance of the first page - especially in a category novel where the wc is VERY TIGHT.

This friend, who will soon be published, pointed out that most editors want the conflict CLEAR as MUD as early as THE FIRST PAGE!!

I KNOW!! I almost died? Surely not!!

So...I looked again at the first page of my new mss and found I've introduced the heroine but aside from that she's had issues with a guy called Tim, is looking forward to heading home and doesn't regard the wealthy workers in the offices above very highly, we don't have any real insight on that first page as to what her conflcits will be.

I think my problem may be that I've started the story in the wrong place because for once I think I've got their conflicts fairly developed in my mind.

Anyway... just thought I'd let you know what I'm up too and why the word count isn't shooting up on the side. I'm currently doing lots of research of stellar first pages and contemplating whether I need a totally NEW start to my story!

Go have a look at some of the first pages of your fave category romances!! How much is given away in as little as a few paras?!


Jackie Ashenden said...

Hmmm, interesing thought. I'm not sure I entirely agree. I've read quite a few first paragraphs where the conflicts are not at all clear. Sometimes it takes a few chapters to tease them out.
And in fact, if you do make it entirely clear initially, then you don't have any cards in your hand to draw the reader in. You have to give them a little bit of mystery surely? If you've given them all the information straight up, what incentive is there for them to read on?

I have to say, that wasn't a comment the editors gave me about any of my submissions, none of which had immediate conflict in that first page. Okay, I was rejected (Lol!) but it wasn't because the lack of conflict on the first page.

I do agree it needs to grab attention though. How you do it is up to you. You could start yours immediately she meets the hero - I recently rewrote one of my first chapters like that and it's much better.

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks for your comments Jackie - they are always helpful!

I've been reading loads and loads of first pages and the results are interesting. I don't think my friend meant say EXACTLY what the conflict is but that the first few pages/chap at least should make it seem like it's impossible for these two to have a HEA!!

Interesting enough in most of the MHs I've read, the conflicts aren't that clear on page one!

Cathryn Brunet said...

I'm with Jackie on this one. While you need to suck your reader in, I'm not convinced it's vital to have all the conflict laid out on page one.

It's also not something I've noticed in the categories I've read. Though to be fair, I haven't really read that many....

I'll be interested to see what others' comments are re this. It's an interesting topic.

Lacey Devlin said...

Interesting... There's so much pressure on that first page I'm surprised mine haven't deleted themselves in protest :) There's a lot of conflicting views about first pages, first chapters, even first sentences but I have to say that my stance on each of them varies, it's very much about the characters and what's right for them and their story in Lacey Writing Land ;)

Joanne Cleary said...

I can't remember reading a story where the conflict was known in the first few pages. I think so long as you start on a 'bang' that's what holds the reader's attention. Then from there, introduce the conflict.

Me, I'm panicking my conflict isn't entirely clear in my first chapter!!

Janette Radevski said...

Wow - that means you need to have the h&H meet on page one, somehow spell out her conflict on page one, spell out his conflict on page one, oh and you need to start with a bang, keep the reader hooked, pages turning etc...Have I left anything out?

As Jackie pointed out, if you lay all your cards on the table on page one - what incentive is there to read on?

Then again, if this what the ed we are subbing to rach wants - I'm all over it!

Sami Lee said...

I prefer books that build up more slowly--and yes I read a lot of category length. I think as long as there's something interesting happening on the first page and a reason for readers to connect to the hero/heroine immediately, the conflict can be dolled out in bits and pieces as the book moves along--as would happen in real life ie., one conflict gets resolved only to make way for another, deeper issue. Hitting readers with the entire conflict right away screams of info dump to me. But maybe that's just me :). Good luck Rach, and commiserations on the RJ.

Sally Clements said...

Very tempted to create a huge first page, maybe 3 times and average A4 or type in 5 point.

Rachael Johns said...

Golly - I'm confused now!! LOL!! Thanks for all your comments/thoughts... keep em coming and I'll keep you updated about my progress with this baby!!!

Barbara said...

Rach's comment: "I don't think my friend meant say EXACTLY what the conflict is but that the first few pages/chap at least should make it seem like it's impossible for these two to have a HEA!!"

Rach, I have to agree with this comment. And, I agree with Jackie in that you don't want to give away all of your cards in the beginning.

Somewhere it says that you should develop more than one conflict, to develop those "layers" that are slowly unpeeled. I think the first page should introduce some conflict that keeps them apart. And, the conflict, IMHO, needs to be the result of something internal.

I don't know if that makes sense, but that is how I see it.

Don't give up, Rach. The more you evaluate, the better you will get. And you will get there.


Lorraine said...

Oh dear, I'm really confused now. I thought I'd got it sorted that it was motivation that had to be instantly clear and conflicts could be gradually unravelled. Eek!

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks Barbara!!

And who knows Lorraine... who knows!

Lucy King said...

I'm no expert, but I think it's possible to overanalyse. (That's what happened to me with my current wip and everything ground to a halt). I guess if you start at the right place then the conflicts will come out at the right time!

Alice said...

Now I'm confused. Doesn't clear as mud mean not clear at all, but confusing?

Heidi said...

Hey, I'm confused now too!!

Maybe what your friend meant was the external conflict as opposed to the internal one... The thing that's going to keep the couple apart initially. I think on that first page you want to try and leap straight into the action, which means not a lot of back story or internal thoughts (just snippets) which kind of precludes you getting very deep into internal conflicts.

But as Lucy says, it's also a bit of a creativity killer to over analyse these things, best to just leap right in and try and get those sparks flying...