According to Eden at “If you give a gift a Pen”, the first 5 sentences of your manuscript are the most crucial, especially if you want to hook an agent. Once you’ve got them hooked, you then need to wow them with the first 5 pages.
I know, I know- you’re writing for the reader, but in order to get that reader invested in your book, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to hook them and hook them fast (why is it I am imagining a fish caught on a hook right now??)
Eden suggested a book that every writer seriously should look into purchasing. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. In here, Noah mentions the importance of not just the first 5 pages, but also of the first 5 sentences (and here you were probably thinking we made this up). If you are struggling to create the absolute best first pages you’ve ever written, let alone read, then your book is most likely doomed (sorry to say). But – if can get those first few sentences down – then you’ve got them hooked!
So how do you create this hook? How can you ensure that when you are ready to send you manuscript, your work of art, to an agent, that they will not only read your query, but also your novel?
According to Eden – it’s all in the re-writing. What is re-writing? Just editing. Creating the story is the easy part (yes, I did just say that – and yes, I know what I’m talking about). All you have to do is say ONE WORD to a writer and you’ll see them cringe. EDIT. Every writer I know will agree when I say that having to edit your book, the one that you have spent countless hours babying, shaping and struggling over, is the hardest part of the writing process. Yet, it’s also the most rewarding. Once you get past the fact that you are literally hacking your story to pieces, deleting words, scenes, characters that are really not important to your story, once you can get past all that, you realize that it’s probably one of the best parts to writing.
In order to edit, you need to focus on the first 5 sentences of your manuscript and go from there. Do increments of 5 sentences at a time. Make sure that each sentence is pared down until only what is really necessary is left in.
According to Noah Lukeman there are essential secrets to ensuring your manuscript doesn’t stay in the ‘reject’ pile. I’ve included 5 of them.
- By editing you work, line by line, you’re making sure you fix any mistakes that you know your reader will find. We all know that once a reader finds one mistake, they will assume there are more and will probably quit before they continue.
- Get rid of all those excessive adjectives and adverbs. Remember when you were new to writing and you were so proud of yourself to thinking of all the flowery descriptions? Do you also remember getting lost in a paragraph because you were unsure how utterly delightful the mosaic colored butterfly that fluttered around your perfectly coifed hair managed to softly with delicacy land in the terra firma before you?
- Stop explaining. Show through action, but don’t overuse dialogue so that your reader looses sight of the scene.
- Make your words work for you, instead of the other way around.
- Find beta readers. You don’t need people around you who will sugar coat, fluff or glaze over your work. Find people who are willing to tear apart your work, line by line. Make sure you listen to them. If your feelings will be hurt because others don’t feel the same way you do about something you wrote – then you’re probably not ready.
So, what are you waiting for? Start back at the beginning of your manuscript and line by line, create the best book ever to be written! You can do it – you know you can.