I’m delighted to be part of Freshly Squeezed’s first competition – The P1 Blitz! If you’re a YA writer with a new manuscript or WIP, visit Freshly Squeezed for details. Even if you don’t think you want feedback, you need it! Everyone writer does.
So, as an ‘industry pro’, I’ve been asked to blog about what I like to see in the first page of a book – and I think this goes for all categories, not just YA.
My advice is to not get hung up on following every piece of advice going. It’s impossible. You will go insane trying. A page one needs to be the natural start to your story, simple as that. Dump the reader into the scene where a, but not necessarily the main, character’s life is about to be altered.
You don’t have to blow up the world, or kill a bunch of people. You don’t have to have your character tell the reader they’re looking for a new love interest and that guy looks perfect over there. You don’t have to let the earth be invaded by aliens. Or anything equally dramatic or shocking. A reader will know if you’re trying too hard.
Of course, if that’s how the story starts then go for it. Obvious can work, as long as it’s impeccably and originally written.
On the B side, don’t tell us what the character’s having for breakfast or exactly what they’re wearing, right down to their undies. And definitely don’t give us a mahoossive paragraph into the character’s history and how they arrived at your opening scene, or a leaf by leaf description of the world we’re in. Drop those details in later on, gradually.
Subtle intrigue. Work in plenty. Drop in a clue or two. Whet your reader’s appetite.
Keep your writing snappy. Tight, tight, tight. Consider every single verb and adjective. Are they perfect? Do you really need that adverb? Probably not. Have you told the reader your character is sad or scared, or have shown this in their thoughts or body language? Is there enough white space on the page so the reader isn’t put off before they even start?
Think of your favourite books. Why did you keep reading? Re-read, analyse and try to highlight what is was. A brilliant character, a beautiful scene. Where was the first clue dropped in to give you an inkling as to how the rest of the story might go? How was it dropped in?
Or flip it over and think of a book you picked up, read page one and put back down. Why did you? Why was it boring?
And finally, read your page one then skip forward to say page five or ten, or where something remarkable or intense happens. Do you need the pages that go before this?
Page one, chapter one is hard. (Not as hard as a synopsis but let’s not even go there.) Ask most writers, professional or otherwise. You’re never going to please everyone so don’t strive to, but break through the boundaries, be original.
I hope you'll enter the contest, I look forward to reading your page 1's!