ConCarolinas 2013: The First Five Pages

The First Five Pages.  Those are some really important words.  Fortunately, I was able to attend a panel discussion at ConCarolinas by some of the Magical Words authors on this very subject!  I really took a lot of notes during this panel because it is something that I really found useful and interesting.The panel guests were Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, and Misty Massey.   Check out their books if you haven’t already!

Panel Notes
  • Need action in the first five pages
  • Editors are looking for potential – able to write, know how to tell a story that will last over the length of the book
  • First five pages must be kick ass
  • They are looking for a reason to STOP reading!
  • You can’t depend on luck if you want to be published
  • Opening must contain
    • Bait and hook
    • Something (event) that will be pivotal but isn’t finished
    • Writing style that sets the tone/genre
    • Sense of immediacy (has to be important and has a time limit)
    • More than one character with a struggle
  • What is on the first page is what the book is about – will carry through the whole book.  Put a body on the first page.
  • A story begins when the points leading up to the climax begin to matter.
  • Let them start to get to know the characters
  • Build worlds with what you know
  • Openings can be action, narrative, or dialogue
  • Advice for researching
    • Read books that are well written.  And badly written.
    • Avoid overused tropes (thematic narrative tool that’s overdone)
    • Make notes of why things work and why they don’t.
    • Find your own opening that the editor can’t put down
    • Read Enders Game
    • Read analytically. Learn how to write by reading. Write in the book and mark good stuff and bad stuff. Choose blockbusters at first. They’re blockbusters for a reason.
  • Conflict
    • Doesn’t have to be the main conflict, but it has to do with it.
  • Great opening – The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron
  • Know the character well enough to know what sets off their emotions.  Then put those things in their path.
  • Discovery is what makes a book work.
  • The first five pages need to be the best work you can do. 
  • Back story in the second third of the book. It’s like lasagna.  Chop it up and give it to us small.  Show.  Don’t tell.   Hint at the back story at first.
  • Don’t sit and wait.  Move on to the next thing.  Publishing is really slow. 
  • Skills will atrophy.  Don’t stop writing.
  • Put distance between the writing and self editing. 4-6 weeks.


This post originally appeared at in 2013


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