Writers all know how important that first page can be. It can hook an agent/editor but it can also make them stop reading. . . and none of us want them to move on to another manuscript in their never-ending pile.
So making that first impression right is critical. That's one reason the SCBWI sponsored a lesson on the craft of writing that ever-important first page with Lisa Schroeder. She gave up a morning (when the sun was out--which is rare in Portland, Oregon) to help us wannabe writers learn from her experiences.
She very graciously shared a few hints on what we writers can do to make sure our first page is strong enough to get our reader to go on to page 2...3, and hopefully even page 4.
I took notes and here are a few tidbits of wisdom that I captured from Lisa Schroeder (author of I Heart You - You Haunt Me, Far From You, Sprinkles and Secrets, Chasing Brooklyn, It's Raining Cupcakes, and The Day Before, which she shared with us at the SCBWI Smooze on Saturday, April 30th:
1) Have your first page start at a moment of significance;
2) Remember voice is important but have your characters doing something;
3) Have a conflict of some sort where the reader is playing catch up; and,
4) Leave your reader with questions.
If your reader has questions, they'll likely turn the page to find the answer.
She also gave us some morsels of what not to do:
1) Starting with dialogue is hard because the reader will likely have too many questions;
2) Editors and agents see too many stories starting with a dream;
3) Remember not to have too much back story; and,
4) Starting with action can be disorienting.
Another point she made was that we don't want to read about ordinary people, we want to be transported or entertained by the extraordinary.
Lisa went above-and-beyond the first page and also talked to us about picture books and cover art for books. She even recommended a few books on craft and much, much more.
It was a wonderful way to spend a morning, listening and learning from Lisa.