Querying can be one of the most daunting parts of the publishing process, whether you’re a new author or a seasoned author looking for a new agent. Even when you have an agent, you still have to wait for them to send your manuscript out on submission, which isn’t necessarily a guarantee that it’ll be published.
While these two parts of the publication process are quite different, this is true for both: the first pages of your manuscript are critical and can make or break your manuscript’s success. So how do you, as an author, know if the beginning of your manuscript is effective enough to make it through the submission pile? Read on to find out.
Ask yourself these questions: Are you…
Hooking the reader?
You might scoff at this, having heard the phrase “good hook” a thousand times. But it’s a valid question. Are you creating something so captivating on the first page that they can’t look away? This might be a startling sentence, an inciting event, or even offering a way for the reader to emotionally connect to your character right away. These, of course, aren’t the only ways you can do this, but they’re great examples!
A few things that a good hook generally does not start with: waking up, dialogue, excessive description.
Let’s face it. At one point or another, you’ve read some beautiful writing, but at some point, thought, “But this isn’t going anywhere.”
And for those reading manuscripts, this will likely be a dealbreaker. While Emily might be a charming and intriguing character, if we’re just reading about her going to work, going to school, and not really doing anything of interest, chances are your readers will lose interest.
You should be creating tension early on, too, as no one wants to read 100 pages before the first plot point. A few simple ways to do this might be to make conflicts crucial to your character’s desires, make your reader ask questions, and continue to raise the stakes.
Giving your character a voice?
You’ve heard everyone say it—editors, agents, readers. They want a strong voice, an authentic voice, etc. So how do you know you’re injecting voice into your writing? Well, it’s definitely easier with first-person, so you might ask yourself if you’re injecting voice into your manuscript to the best of your ability depending on the POV you’ve chosen. This can be through tone, dialect, access, etc.
No matter what, the story should be told through the character, rather than you telling the reader what’s happening while the character just happens to be there. This can make it difficult for the reader to connect to your character, and as a result, lose interest.
While other things can affect a reader’s opinion of your manuscript in the first few pages, these are a few of the biggest, non-negotiable things agents and editors look for in terms of publication potential.
If you don’t feel you’re doing these things, that’s okay! As a writer, you’re always learning and improving, and there’s nothing wrong with taking the time to make your manuscript even stronger than before.
Ready to get your work published? Check out Night Heron Media's submission guidelines here!