One of the unique features of the OCCBWW was First Pages where we looked at anonymous first pages from manuscripts. Problems in manuscriopts almost always exist in the beginning. When we write something WE know what we mean, but often we leave out important detail to engage the reader.
One of my biggest faults as a writer is front loading with too much back story- in short giving away the plot in the first three pages instead of giving the reader a reason to read my book. When one of the editors at the workshop said, “Backstory is essentially plot notes for the writer,” a light bulb pinged over my head. It’s the outline I should copy and paste somewhere else for me, not my poor readers. Duh.
Engage the reader with imagery right away, not long drawn out weather reports or descriptions of the scenery.
We’re all tempted to do this, as if to slowly invite the reader into our setting. The problem is, he or she will be asleep before the tale even begins. WE know that the air was crisp with the aroma of autumn leaves, and our character wears green socks and smokes Winstons, but does the reader care?
Do these “details” move the story or just add words? (See June 28 blog entry) Are they “telling” details that reveal quirks of character? Will those green socks serve as a symbol later in the story? Are the leaves important? Does the character have a penchant for leaves? Is he or she a botanist? Will the character smoke the leaves because he or she is out of Winstons? If not, strike them. Get moving.
But don’t move too fast.
Writing is like a high wire act. Too slow, and you’ll probably fall.
Too fast, and you might not fall, but you’ll zip across so fast the audience won’t see anything.
Before the reader gets invested in the action, let him or her know the character before we see the conflict. The opening line of Fahrenheit 451 “It was a pleasure to burn,” leads us right into Guy Montag’s character. Essentially it reveals his conflict, too.
Pick a scene with your character(s) and start there. And make sure that scene leads into the next scene, and the next.
Writing is so easy (not!)
For my next blog I will post my first page and analyze specificially what went wrong. I don't recall anyone saying something goo about it. :(