In this age of the Internet, social networking, BBM, Twitter pictures (ahem), and ever-shortening attention spans in general, it isn’t surprising—unfortunate, but not surprising—that the same effect has somewhat permeated the book realm. It was only yesterday, as we met with film agents, that an admission was made that film rights to a book had been purchased by a production company based only on the title. How is that even possible? The title, and nothing else?
Anyway, this means that aside from giving books heart-stopping titles, writers need to grab the interest of readers, agents, and publishers from the very first page—even the first sentence—of their story.
So how can a writer achieve this? I’ve said before how much I love lists. Some thoughts on making your novel compelling right from the start:
- In the simplest sense, get right to it. Introduce your protagonist in the first paragraph and start right away with dialogue and action as opposed to long descriptions or background information.
- Develop the main character quickly by putting him or her in the center of conflict as soon as possible.
- When developing the main character, do so through interaction and dialogue with other characters rather than through inner reflection.
- But don’t introduce too many characters in the very beginning.
- Lastly, don’t forget that when drafting, you can always start the story where you feel most comfortable. Revisions will then bring the opening action to the forefront, drawing the reader in from the very beginning.
Yes, the query letter may be everything when pitching a book. But it is just as important to make sure the story itself will draw the reader in right from the start.