What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents. They’re the ones on the front lines — sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter 1 approaches are overused and cliche, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work. Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!

FALSE BEGINNINGS

“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
– Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

IN SCIENCE FICTION

“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.”
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

PROLOGUES

“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

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Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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