Monday, February 7, 2011
The Page 1 - Line 1 Downfall
Many authors and writers out there would be shocked to know that I can tell by almost the first line in a book whether or not it's a winner or loser. I know you're thinking, "How can she tell by the first line?" Well, I'm not sure what it is about terrible manuscripts, but they show their flaws almost as soon as the authors has typed a single word. I recently was given a book to read. Published by one of our fellow publishers aka vanity press, I was immediately captivated. No, not by the scintillating prose. The author makes the clear beginner's mistake right from the start -- she writes in passive voice. Passive voice is like being a victim -- everything happens to you! This error was followed by equally flat and uninteresting writing. (Also, if you don't know what is passive voice, please go to my favorite website, Grammar Girl, and look it up ... I heart Grammar Girl.) Did I know by the first line this book wasn't getting published at 3L? Absolutely and within seconds. The lesson: Always make your first page as amazing as your last page. You would actually be surprised how many writers will tell me chapter one stinks ... but you know, skip that and keep going. If your chapter one really smells rotten like it got sprayed by a skunk, let me give you a piece of advice: you are not ready to publish. Put your best chapter one forward or not all.