The first page of your novel is by far the most important one, not only because it’s the first impression your readers will get of you, but also because it could secure you a publishing deal. I’ve met a lot of literary agents who say they read the first page of a manuscript sent to them and then decide from that whether to read the rest of the submission or reject it. It really is that important, and that’s why we’ve written this post to help you write the perfect opening.
By the end of the first page we want to know where we are, who the protagonist is and if possible we also want a vague idea of what’s going on. Don’t try to put too much more into it because it might overwhelm the reader. If you want to really set the scene and pack the detail in then do it, but try to make sure you haven’t just written a long list of adjectives. The most important thing though is to keep your number of characters down to as little as possible. I’ve read a few books where there have been so many names on the first page that I’ve lost track of who’s who and had to go back and reread to get my head around it. Having to work so hard to understand the first page of a book is sure to make your readers put it back on the shelf
Make your first sentence unforgettable
The first sentence of your book sets the tone for the entire novel. Whether it’s speech, a description or an action, it needs to grasp your reader tightly and not let go. It’s up to you how you structure this sentence; it can be short or long, descriptive or direct, you just need to make it pop. I’ve known authors to spend hours on that one sentence, rewriting and editing endlessly to get it right, and in the end it’s worth it. Try writing a few different ones for your novel, and then give them to some friends or your family and get them to tell you which they think is best. And then edit it again until even you think it’s pretty damn good.
Make your protagonist stand out
Whether your protagonist is the hero we root for or the narrator we hate, you’ve got to make them interesting. There’s got to be something about them that makes the reader want to follow their story and learn more about their life. This first page is your chance to intrigue the reader. You shouldn’t reveal everything there is to know about this character yet, but give a little something to make them want to know the rest. Something as simple as a good voice or an unusual look can make a character really stand out in a story. If you’re having problems getting your protagonist right, take a look at this post on how to create a character.
So there’s our three top tips on writing the first page of your novel. Maybe you feel there’s something in your story that breaks one of these rules, and that’s fine. Just make sure you have a strong reason for it.
Have you written a first line that you need to test out? Post it in the comments below and see if our readers want to hear more.