Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Monday, February 27, 2012

Would It Scare You to Send the First Page of Your Book?

In the past, the agents who scared me the most were those who requested a query and 2 or 3 pages, no  more, of the book.  A year ago I spotted an agent's demand for the first page alone.  Now, other agents also scared me with requests for 10, 20, 30 or up to 50 pages--by which time I'd have just finished clearing my throat and be moseying along to the Good Part. starting to tie things together, etc.  Part of me could see their point...but 1-3 pages?  How could even the best of those agents spy the epic grandeur of my work, its marvelous complexity, from a sample that small?

My thinking has changed on this matter.  High time, too, I might add.  After all, when I go to a bookstore and a new novel's cover has captured my eye, what do I do every time?  Flip through a couple of pages.  I'm not necessarily looking for an action-packed opening set piece.  But in the books I choose to buy, some magical something has spoken to me:  something in the prose or authoritative tone has led me to know that I'll be in good hands--even though I may not know where the heck the book is going.

Luckily, my thinking had also changed on the writing itself.  Though I took my time unraveling the new book's central mystery, I'd come to feel that certain things should happen at definite stages if I were to draw readers in.  And my beta readers had also saved me a couple of pages of lard at the start.  Result:  for the first time in my career, I felt as confident in sending out a few pages as I did fifty. 

A little later on, I plan to post a detailed chronicle of my querying process for this book.  For now, my advice is this:  if you're fearful of showing small bits of your work, the writing's on the wall:  Rewrite!

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