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Nailing the first 5 pages

Writers have to nail the 1st twenty-five pages of the book. Preferably the 1st 5. Agents and publishers only read those pages. Amazon only lists those on its “Look Inside” feature. People browsing in the bookstore or on their friend’s shelves will only read it. The first twenty-five pages of the book have to be perfect. And yet, good luck doing it. It’s not like it’s easy.

So, here’s a way to think of the first 5 pages: It’s a blind date. You’re hesitant to go out with your colleague’s wife’s cousin visiting from out of town. Yet you wouldn’t mind meeting someone special. So out you go.

Like a blind date, the first 5 pages introduces us to key elements of the book. You’re meeting a babe not your therapist so it’s a seduction, not a baring of the soul. The 1st 5 pages is a tarted-up intro, all smiles and batted eyelashes, Lynx and bravado.

So this blind date has to

  • Introduce us to the central character of the book. That person should be square in front of you so that you know whom you’re going to be spending the rest of the book with.

  • Be interesting. The person has got to have an issue or a problem or being doing something that makes you think, gosh but that’s kind of interesting.

  • Be fun. This can be verbal gymnastics.

There are so many excellent first pages. Think of Pride and Prejudice. At the end of just the first five pages we’re introduced the daughters, the favourite being Lizzy, although Jane is prettier and Lydia is the party animal. The problem is in the first sentence: marrying the wealthy bachelor who just rented the house down the road. And the tone is ironic and witty so it’s a fun read.. Austen didn’t need 25 pages. She needed five.

What’s your favourite opening to a novel?

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