I'm trying a new series here on WITS, where I'll crit a submitted first page. More on how to get your work considered below. In the meantime, let's jump right in!
I believe we learn best, by example.
The following is from a brave WITS follower who agreed to go first ~ Dilly dilly to her/him!
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It’s still dark outside and I’m pretty sure my body hates my brain right now. This is a repeat, and I think you say it better, next. Say it once, say it well! My brain says it’s time to get up, but my body isn’t convinced. In the end, my brain wins the battle. I shut off the alarm and sit on the edge of the bed. The dog rolls over and buries her head under my pillow. Her body wins the battle. Your reader gets it before you think they do. I think it’s funnier, just with this last sentence.I don’t think her brain even got involved.
I drag myself into the bathroom and turn the shower on, cranking the valve all the way to the left. Standing against the back wall, I reach out and test the temperature of the stream with a couple of fingers. Why does it always take so long to get hot water in here? This is Arizona and it’s July. Getting cold water should be a problem. Ah . . . finally. See below
The warm water feels good as it flows over my waking muscles. Now I don’t want to get out, but I know I have to. I dry off and comb my hair. Why am I bothering? I’m just going to put a cap and a helmet on anyway. I skip the hair-gel and just brush my teeth. See below
Stepping into the closet, I pull a pair of black bike shorts off the shelf. I only have black bike shorts—any other color would be wrong. The jerseys are a different story. I run my hand over the large selection hanging in front of me. Unlike the shorts, I don’t own a single black jersey. This is telling, and you show, next. Showing is almost always better. Most of them are bBright colors and patterns, some to the point of being obnoxious. Loud jerseys make people notice me. I like it when people notice me. See how the next sentence shows this? It makes them much less likely to leave a set of tire tracks up my back.
This morning We know. I pull on my Arizona flag jersey. The bright sunrise pattern seems appropriate for this time of day. Is it supposed to be sunrise or a sunset on the flag? I never thought about it before. I guess it doesn’t really matter. If it doesn’t matter, why mention it? I choose a pair of riding socks that match the jersey and head out to the kitchen. Now that food is a possibility, the dog slips off the bed, stretches, and follows me down the hall.
I’m a bicyclist, so I love the subject! You have a familiar, cozy voice, and I settled right in.
I’d have loved to know what breed the dog is – why? It shows me how big it is, long hair, short hair, etc. I need a hint, so I can picture it.
You show, then tell, and repeat. Trust your reader to get it. Readers like when everything isn’t laid out for them – Example: The sunrise pattern – they’ll get why it’s appropriate.
Readers nowadays are impatient. You don’t have a ton of time to hook them – maybe 5 pages. This is one fifth of that, and all we know is she rides a bike, has a dog, and does the same routine things in the morning that we do.
Put that way, does that hook you? Don’t waste time in the critical first pages, telling us things we could guess (the shower takes a long time to heat, etc.) You spend two critical paragraphs on a shower.
Instead, make your first page do double-duty: slip in one thing that’s going to be critical to the story – raise questions in the readers’ minds. Is the character quirky in some way? What does she want (which, of course, she can’t have, right?) Who IS she? See how your first page doesn’t even hint at that?
What am I talking about?
Character. Conflict. Stakes. Goal. Motivation.
That’s what hooks readers.
I’m not saying this is bad – it’s not. But it can be so much more!
What do you think, WITS readers? Do you agree? Is this a subject you'd like to see more of?
I have so many submissions, it'll take a while for me to work through the ones I have now. I'll send out a call for submissions when I do! Thanks to those who sent them!
She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award in the Best First Book category.
Laura began a video blog for writers, answering their burning questions. You can watch all the episodes HERE. If you have a question you'd like her to address in a future episode, leave her a comment!
Did you know Laura teaches craft classes? Check out her upcoming ones, both online and in person, HERE.
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