First Pages


A few weeks back, I wrote a post about first lines.  The reason for this was that I seemed to read/hear a lot about how important the first line in a novel was to ‘hook’ in the reader. Personally, I felt that the most popular first lines of novels were simply famous because the book was popular, not the other way around.

Ok, if we move on a bit further, we often hear about how editors will only read a limited section of a manuscript before they decide if the novel is wortwhile, or not. To quote some editors from a post on;

“You can usually tell after a paragraph—a page, certainly—whether or not you’re going to get hooked.” (Chuck Adams, Executive Editor, Algonquin Books)

I know most of what I need to know about a writer’s chops in about a line and a half.” (Dan Conaway, Literary Agent, Writers House)

When you read quotes like that, it makes you wonder if that’s even possible?!?

Well, Ray Rhamey hosts a website called which accepts first-page submissions from amateur writers and then runs a poll to see how many readers would turn over the page, or put the book down.  There is also a small element of editing (although he only admits to reading through a submission once).

The requirements are based on six simple points that he feels should be included in every first page of a novel;

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene-setting
  • Character

I found it amusing to read the submissions and then see if my decision to turn the page met with the results of the poll.  After all, if I keep getting it wrong, then it probably shows in my writing also.

What is even more interesting is that Ray often pulls up a first-page from a book that has already been published to see how the author would fare if it was a new submission.

I recommend spending thirty minutes or so on here and see what other people are doing, and how they think about their writing.  At the very least, you’ll be able to gauge your own writing against the submission and see if it boosts your confidence or not.

PS: My next post will probably be called’ “How a single website informed me that my writing sucks!”

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