I love this advice on making it past the first editorial cut. Opening paragraphs, and opening pages, are fun to critique.
In short, start with a bang, start with the Ghostpigs.
Example from a novel – starting with Robin McKinley’s Dragonhaven: so far I am sad to say there are no GHOSTPIGS in sight. For the first couple of pages the boy whines about doing homework… only faint hints about past conflict.
Robin, bring on the Ghostpigs!
I’m not a mean person, I’m not rejecting for fun. I want to find awesome stories because frankly, it sucks to read bad ones all day. Finding the readable jewel is a rush, and fun. However harsh I may seem, I actually don’t want to crush spirits under my pointy literary heel. That being said.
But holy shit guys, what the hell is going on with opening paragraphs?
I swear to god, in every workshop I’ve ever known, they’ve said: you have to make your opening paragraph awesome because editors will kick it if it doesn’t grab them right away….
And if you want to hold back your awesome, then wouldn’t it make more sense to start with something at least stylistically interesting, so that by the time the ghostpigs are shredding on diamond-crusted twelve-necked bone-guitars, at least people are like: I trust something supersweet is on its way because this author can clearly write. I cannot begin to understand the logic that says: BORING STUFF UP FRONT, AWESOME TO THE BACK.
There’s a lot more to the article – read it via Rules for Anchorites – Adventures in Editing.
Here are a pair of constructive (less-funny) posts about opening paragraphs:
- This contains excellent examples of opening paragraphs and pointers on where they go wrong. Really illuminating for any serious writer or reader! And it’s the route I took to finding the ghostpigs. Confessions of a Slush Reader: Why Should I Care? :: Shimmer.
- “98% of the time, your reader doesn’t give a damn if autumn leaves are wafting along on the crisp fall breeze.” via The first five pages of your manuscript.