Tuesday, June 15, 2010

OH MY GALOSHES, Noah Lukeman was RIGHT! GIVEAWAY by Cheryl Wyatt

OH MY GALOSHES, Noah Lukeman was RIGHT! by Cheryl Wyatt might make you feel as though you're having dé-jà vu. Never fear, you're not going nutso. I posted a similar article on Novel Journey recently. LOL!

OH MY GALOSHES, Noah Lukeman was RIGHT!

In case you’re wondering, the galoshes are because we have been bombarded by rain this week. AGAIN! I wished I had a canoe to get out of the driveway earlier. LOL!

Sloshing onward…

Noah Lukeman, esteemed Literary Agent and bestselling author of many popular craft books, penned one of my favorites: The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.

If you are an aspiring author and don’t yet have it, do yourself and your chances at publication a favor and purchase one for your Keeper Craft Bookshelf. His book can be purchased on his web site or anywhere online.

In this book, Lukeman discusses common writing mistakes that are across-the-board to new writers. He talks about the importance of Presentation…the immediate, out-of-the-gate perception that your first five pages will give to potential editors or agents.

In short, you have one shot within these first-impression pages to reel in or repel them.

Sounds harsh, I know, but you have to understand how intense the competition is and the astronomically high number of stellar submissions agents and editors get on a regular basis.

This is not meant to discourage you. This is meant to give your story a better shot at standing out among the multitudes.

This is VITAL information you MUST know if you are an aspiring author serious about breaking in: For two years in a row, I’ve been polling agents and editors from ABA and CBA about how long they read submissions before they know whether the manuscript is a go or a definite no go. I suspected that many of them would know by the end of the first ten pages, but was shocked at the outcome of this poll.

I phrased the question like this: If you are, or have been an acquisitions editor, or an agent, and have time to answer this question, I'd appreciate it.

Question: The majority of the time, how long do you MOST COMMONLY read material from a slush pile before you (usually) know for certain a manuscript will receive a "pass" verdict? "Pass" meaning it's a NO GO/likely rejection.

Please respond with one letter below.

A. First line.
B. First paragraph.
C. By the end of page one
D. Within three pages
E. Within five pages
F. Within ten pages
G. By the end of the first chapter
H. Within the first three chapters or before fifty pages
I. Mid-book
J. By the end of the book
K. Other (Please explain)

Without having seen anyone else’s response, A WHOPPING 97% of the hundreds polled gave “C” as the answer!!!

That means ONLY a handful of those interviewed gave an alternate answer.

NO ONE gave an answer beyond G other than ONE new literary agent who said he or she would actually read the entire manuscript. I’d be interested in knowing if this agent has since changed their mind about that. LOL!

In summary, how important is the first page of your manuscript? Crucial.

My advice?

STRIVE for absolute excellence in that first page.

Then write EVERY page as if it were your first page.

Thanks for being with me today. I’d love to know what your personal first-page weakness is.

Maybe in sharing, it can help others struggling.

On a side note...
Steadfast Soldier, my June Love Inspired is still available. Hope you will run out and grab one if you haven't. It's also available online.

Here's the back cover copy:

Rescuing people is his job…

But the one person pararescue jumper Chance Garrison can't seem to help is his own ailing father, who refuses his much-needed physical rehabilitation. That is, until Chance hires unconventional occupational therapist Chloe Callet. To his surprise, Chloe and her sweet black Lab, Midnight, work wonders. And not only on the elder Garrison. Chance just may have met the woman who can get through his own toughened exterior. Can he persuade the lovely Chloe to take a chance—on him?

In an upcoming article I will share more results from the same agent/editor poll. I asked those who responded what their number one reason for rejection was.

So I hope you will tune in for that one next month. It's good info that everyone serious about pursuing publication must know.

I'm sure this is old hat to those of you who frequent this blog. Just the fact that you're online reading this article proves you want to learn. That you have a teachable spirit will go a loooooooong way with impressing an agent or editor. So hats off to all of you friends of Seekerville who are working so very hard to attain your dream.

We'll be here to cheer you on when (not if!) you reach it too.

Thanks SO much for spending time with us today.

Don't forget to share your first page weakness if you're a writer. If you're a reader, let us know your first page pet peeve.

EVERYONE WHO COMMENTS WILL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING for the chance to win Noah Lukeman's First Five Pages. Entry deadline is Thursday, June 17th at Midnight and winner will be announced in Tina's FABULOSO weekend edition.

Now I'm hushing up so you can share....

Right after you eat one of my homemade melted ham-n-cheese English muffins and good old southern grits with LOTS of butter and sugar. None of that diet stuff today. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and summer breeze amaretto coffee is in the pot.

Have at it and share your first page blues.



Amber S. said...

Thanks for sharing this, Cheryl! :) It's a bit scary to think of how significant that first page really is! It's understandable that there has to be a way to wade through the manuscripts, but still...

That's a lot of pressure!

Anyway, I think it's hard to have a balance between backstory and action. I think I'm leaning more towards the former, but I've heard that the latter is preferable to the reader. What do you suggest?

Thanks again! I have some more of my mom's baking to share again today--oatmeal cinnamon cookies with chocolate chips!!! They are so, so good! :D



Edwina said...

Yum-O! Breakfast sound delicious and I'm sitting at the kitchen table ready!

I do think the first page presents one of the biggest challenges because we know that editors will judge the book on that first page. If we don't "hook" them then, we've lost them!


Cindy W. said...

Writing the first page scares me. I want to do it right and I tend to over-write it. If I were writing it on a chalkboard the eraser would continue to obliterate it. I could really use Mr. Lukeman's "First Five Pages".

As a reader it bugs me when I pick up a book that grabs me on the first page and then loses energy.

Many blessings today to all of you in Seekerville.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cheryl, this is spot-on great stuff. And we've heard it at conferences, read it in books, and we've discussed it in private.

Hook 'em fast, aim high, aim low, grab 'em by the throat and don't let go. (Crap... that sounds like one of my high school cheers... Oh mylanta....)

I'm going to add that I don't necessarily think it's the first line that grabs, (although yesterday's contest was WAY fun) but the essence of that first page... Does the page grip? Grab? Hold? Thrust?

And that comes back to slice and dice, follow Cheryl's method of axing extra words, be crisp, concise, clear... Make every word count twice.

My first page problem is telling too much on the first draft, but then I go back, AX most of it, and drop 'em into the action. It's actually therapeutic. Kind of. In a weird, minimalist, self-effacing way. I get to cut my lovely words, and then no one has to TELL me to do it. So I feel smart and a little sneaky, because I know I wrote a lot more originally. HAH!!!!

Great stuff, Cheryl, and so stinkin' true. Thanks, Sweetums!


Sherrinda said...

Excellent post! I've always heard the first page was incredibly important, but to see those results from your poll is astounding! 97% !!!!! I would have though at least a chapter.

I have too much backstory...the bane of a new writer, from what I hear. I had left out a good part of it, but some early readers got confused. Evidently, I haven't learned to sprinkle it in effectively yet. :)

p.s. Your books sounds wonderful and the cover is soooo lovely!

Kirsten Arnold said...

Excellent post, Cheryl! I agree with Amber though it's scary to see how important that first page is.

It seems I suffer from a common first page problem and that's trying to get too much information out right at the get go. I think sometimes I try to tell the characters' whole backstory on page one. This means major edits on the second draft.

I can't wait to read the next installment to this blog.


Janet Dean said...

Cheryl, thanks for sharing the results of your poll! It doesn't matter if we're pubbed or not, we have to hook our readers in the opening lines. For pubs, our sales, contest finals and even reputation as authors depend on it. Looking forward to next month's post.


Cathy Shouse said...

I get how important the beginning is although I think it can be paralyzing to over focus on it. Don't ask me how I know. lol

I've noticed that a lot of published books do exactly what unpubbed authors are told not to. For example, Diane Motts Davidson's incredibly popular series debut "Catering to Nobody" is a complete background dump for a few pages. That came out a few years ago.

Do you think publishers are getting even pickier about openings? Just wondering.

I guess we should just do our best and go on!

Would love a copy of the book.

cathy underscore shouse at yahoo

Jessica Nelson said...

I struggle with finding a good balance of setting, backstory and forward momentum in the first five pages. Trying to hook the reader on the first page is definitely challenging!

jessica_nelson7590 at yahoodotcom

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cheryl, Great advice and The First Five Pages is a wonderful book.

Just to ease the tension a little. The editors read the first page and can tell a rejection. Honestly, I've seen some of the stuff they get and you can tell from the first page if the person knows how to write.

Now for acceptance, an editor is going to read more. They can tell from that first page you know what you're doing and then they'll read on. If you keep them after five pages, then you're really peeking their interest.

If you don't believe me, try judging contests. Very enlightening.

Thanks for offering that book Cheryl, I have it in my keeper craft shelf. Everyone should have it.

English muffins were yummy too.

Kav said...

Wow -- by the end of the first page? I shouldn't be suprised, I guess, because I make library purchasing decisions based largely on the first page...for novels anyway (ones I'd use as novel sets in elementary and high schools).

I get a feel for the writing style and content (always good if we get through a page without a single swear word :-) ). If I'm hooked, I'll read a bit more, skim through the middle and finally, if it pasts muster, purchase one so I can read it right through and then decide whether we should get multiple copies.

I know I feel overwhelmed when I go to a big buy-in -- wall to wall brand spanking new books and vendors all trying to convince me to buy theirs. That has to be kind of what it's like for an editor at a publishing house -- multiplied by thousand or so.

Julie Lessman said...

"OH MY GALOSHES," Cheryl, (we've had quite a bit of rain as well!) truer words have never been spoken, girl!!

Everyone knows that it's the title, cover, then jacket blurb that reels a reader in first, but for me, and millions of readers, I suspect, that first line is CRUCIAL, followed by the first paragraph and then the first page. So this poll is really not that surprising to me, epecially given the competitive market and overworked editors out there. When wading through hundreds of books, there's simply no time to dawdle when making a decision ... whether you are an editor OR a reader.

My biggest weakness on the first page is internal monologue ... filling the first page (or in the case of my early ms. of A Passion Most Pure, the first seven pages!!) with the heroine's thoughts. I found out real early in the game through a paid critique at ACFW that this was NOT a good thing. "Move the action up, Tracey Bateman said, so I moved "the kiss scene" from page seven to four, then from four to two, and finally I plopped that sucker right down in the 2nd paragraph AFTER I succumbed to my own crazy craving for mind rambling by dedicating the first line and paragraph to the heroine's thoughts.

So filling that first page with action is crucial, I think, although I have to admit, every single one of my books starts out with the heroine's thoughts in the first line/paragraph, so you can only teach an old so many new tricks ... :)

Cathy asked: Do you think publishers are getting even pickier about openings? Yes, I certainly do, Cathy, ESPECIALLY for the debut or new authors who still have to prove themselves. I imagine Francine Rivers can write any first line she wants, and an editor wouldn't touch it, but we newbies??? Uh, no. In fact, my editor changed my first line on my upcoming book, A Hope Undaunted, although I'm not reallys sure why. The original first line was "Love at first sight, my foot," but she had me change it, so I came up with "Now this is how love should be -- nice and neat," which she accepted.

Great blog, Cheryl!


Melanie Dickerson said...

I absolutely hate writing the first few pages of a story. It's so stinkin' hard and I feel all this pressure to make it perfect. But I know there's a reason for that. Editors as well as readers aren't going to put up with wimpy first pages!

With my present WIP, I ended up cutting the first several pages because it seemed like backstory and like I was revealing too much. At first I wasn't sure if it was the right call, but I'm on page 47 now and I know it was.

When I judge contest entries, I get a lot of boring first pages, where the POV character is RAMBLING! Don't do this. :-)

Dianna Shuford said...

Cheryl- you are absolutely right about Lukeman's book. It was one of the first writing reference books I bought and it's still my favorite many books later. So, I'll shout out a back up of your post to everyone.

Get that book!

You know, this post has gone really well with yesterday's talk about first lines.

Don't enter me in the drawing since I already have the book. I also have your new one as well :), but haven't had a chance to start it. :(

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Cheryl,

Thanks for those startling statistics! Nothing like black and white numbers to give you a slap!

I'm judging some entries in our Toronto Gold Contest right now and it's true, you get a good idea from page one whether the writer knows what he/she is doing. But I'm kinder than an editor. I give it at least 5 pages before I decide if I like it or not! LOL.

I have "The First Five Pages" by Lukeman which I don't think I ever finished. (Bad writer!) Does anyone else do that? Buy all these great books and only get about halfway through?

After today's post, I will go back and re-read it! But it may have to wait until I read your new book which came in the mail last week! Too many good books out lately.

Oh, and btw, Julie, I liked YOUR first line better than the editor's. More of a punch.

Thanks again, Cheryl. Off to work.


Melanie Dickerson said...

I forgot to say, Cheryl, this poll was a great idea and very helpful to us writers! You rock!

Also, I was a little shocked that they said "one page" and not "five pages."

And to keep from feeling paralyzed as you write those first few pages, just tell yourself it will get edited later and if you started in the wrong place, you'll fix it. Later.

Teri Dawn Smith said...

I agree. The First Five Pages is a great book. He also has another great book called The Plot Thickens. Don't enter me in the contest because I already have the book, underlined and dog eared from reference.

Mary Connealy said...

They say an editor can tell if you can write (what does that mean anyway, 'tell if you can write') in the first paragraph and if they decide you can't, well, they'll give you a page, maybe two. But the beginning is so incredibly crucial I don't think it can be stressed enough.

A good example of this though, that comes to mine, if the contest entries I've judged from authors

Mary Connealy said...

I could give you all a very fascinating, personal and detailed explanation of why I know this to be the absolute truth.

But it'd be soooooooo much typing. Just assume the story would make my point brilliantly and believe me.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Sorry to keep posting!

One more thing about first pages, from my experience judging contests. Please don't make it depressing. So many entries I've judged start out with the main character mourning someone. And they're depressed for the entire entry. Maybe it's just me, but this never makes me want to read more.

And you don't have to put me in the drawing. I've read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and it's definitely in my top 3 of Best Books on Writing. I recommend it often.

Kathy said...

Hi Cheryl,

Big epiphany this morning at my house. I have been so attached to the first lines I wrote years ago that I just won't let go of them. This is a first middle grade novel and that opening sounds more like a picture book.

I was musing with fellow seeker, Barb, (Yimming) over your article and realized all of a sudden which scene needs to be the first. No telling just hit the scene at a run. It would work!

Yay! Thanks and baking an apple pie for lunch in your honor!

Seriously, thank you.


Glynna Kaye said...

Pretty scary. Especially when a typed manuscript first page isn't even a full page long! Every word has to count, to really convey what you want it to convey about the writer's voice, characterization, conflict, mood, setting, the situation at hand. I've often heard agents & editors say that too many writers start their first chapter in the wrong place altogether. That they should be starting with chapter two or even three--wherever the story REALLY begins.

Project Journal said...

You're like comfort food...I mean that in the nicest way possible! Whenever I see that you've posted I get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside because I know it'll be good.

This week is an especially tough one. I'm graduating on Friday! Today's the last day of school and it's terrifying. I need that comfort food feeling today : /

I didn't get to talk with you yesterday, but I'm going to quote myself from my comment yesterday for you:
"I wanted to pop in and let you guys know that Senior Awards Night was last night. I ended up getting called up 13 times (7 cash awards, 3 paper awards, and a plaque and stole for graduation from the honors program)!! That's by far the most of anyone *grin* I recieved almost $6,000 last night, making for a grand total (including the 2 I already recieved previously) of about $7,500!! I just HAD to stop by and tell you because you're all so important to me."

So, yeah, it's really exciting!! You're definitely on my people to tell list *wink*

So, I don't have too much to say about this post because I commented on it at Novel Journey. It was a bit different, but very similar! *wink* I am trying to finish the awards banquet post for my blog....better get back to it!

Talk to you later,

Renee said...

Cheryl, I used to put in way too much story set up. I've learned to get right into the action. Or at least I'm trying.

BTW, I love your hero's last name, especially since it's my maiden name.;)

Myra Johnson said...

Such an important topic, Cheryl! When you think of how many manuscripts editors and agents must slog through in the course of finding ONE worthy of publication, it's no wonder they have to rely on first-page impressions.

Echoing what Sandra said, just try judging contests. It really is pretty easy to tell within the first page or two whether this writer has what it takes to sustain the story.

KC Frantzen said...

Excellent post Cheryl. I don't have the book and would relish it. may at maythek9spy dot com

I'm not sure what my weaknesses are on the first line/pages. If I did, I'd fix 'em! :)

Reading the first lines was fascinating. Interesting which made me want to read more and the others that made me say something like, "So what?"

Many have said to start with action or something critical, so I think I have that, but how can we be sure? I've not gotten it "out there" too much yet, but have hired a writing coach to slap me around (funny how you pay for this) and prune it.

A few said they were initially confused who the book was about, but only a few. The rest said, "DUH" or some such. So - going to Rachelle Gardener's point on a recent blog, how do you decide what to sift out and what not to? I don't know yet.

It's a fine balance and like our famous Seeker Amish friend Cindy Woodsmall's experience, she held on knowing it really was the story of her heart, and finally, someone took a chance, and voila - she was right!!!

PS -and thank you Kav (9:05) about the swear word comment. If that was in a first line of a book I picked up, I'd put it down. Why? If the author has nothing else to use in the first line, then I assume the book will be filled with profanity. Not that I mind the occasional word if there is a POINT to it, but gratuitous profanity (violence, sex) is not something I choose to read.

Thanks for breakfast. YUM!

And Mary, I believe you. Always.

KC Frantzen said...


Wawzah girl! Congratulations and BIG HUGS!!! WTG!!!

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him! Psalm 64:10

Regina Merrick said...

When I was double-checking my first line for yesterday's Seekerville comment, I found that I've actually rewritten my first page four times. And guess what? It needs it again. I realized after the last contest non-finalist entry, that even though I have the beginning in the present day, it's STILL backstory. Setup. Even the action doesn't really speak to the plot (although it could...Hmmmm). I love reading these posts, and then the comments. It's like sitting in on a panel discussion!

Weaknesses? My first draft had a prologue - a dream sequence. Ugh. The second draft had a man mourning the loss of a mentor (yep, Melanie, depressing as all get-out). The third draft had too much internal monologue. And the fourth started with action, but not GREAT action.

So yes, I've hit all the high spots. And I'll keep reading on Seekerville! I'd love to win your book, BTW.... :)


Helen Gray said...


I know to start with action, but I always fret about whether I'm getting the scene set right.

Thanks for the article. Keep'em coming!


Rose said...

Hi Cheryl,

I guess my problem area in the first page or so is the setting. I know the backstory can't be there and try to start with action to grab the reader but one agent and a couple of online courses I've taken points out that I don't set the stage for my story. I try to work the setting in with just a few lines so the action remains at the forefront, but I guess that's not enough. : (

Anyway, interesting poll. Don't enter me in the contest, I have the book and probably should re-read it!

Pepper Basham said...

Great post, Cheryl.
and painful.

I keep trying to get that first paragraph, even first sentence, so intriguing people have to keep going.

I have a lot of dicing to do. I mean, like "burying a dead body under all the extra words I type" kind of dicing.

In my wip I just started last week, I've rewritten the first page 4 times already, in two different povs. I keep asking myself "what do I NEED in this sentence? What do i NEED on this page?"
Are those good questions? or just neurotic.

Vince said...

Hi Cheryl:

I won this book last year and it’s excellent. Thanks again.

I think it is interesting to look at Mr. Lukeman’s opening two lines:

“Most people are against books on writing on principle. So am I.”

Great survey. I’m greatly relieved that most editors will at least read the whole first page. My take on the book is that great writing trumps a great opening sentence.


Missy Tippens said...

Cheryl, great post!! I, too, love this book my Lukeman!

Very interesting poll! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to next month!

Casey said...

Getting that first page just right is daunting, but also a fun challenge in some ways. At least I think so. The only hard part is not knowing whether it will really work!


Great post BTW, thanks!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

This just affirmed what I have always said to my friends about books I recommend to them. If I am not grabbed by the end of the first page, it is rare I purchase it. I never used to read excerpts, believing it might spoil the story for me if I read more than the back blurb. It took me a while to learn there was value in reading what the author actually says in the book to start with!

I can't think of too many peeves because the books on my shelves are bought peeveless in the first place!

Thanks so much for recommending this book!

Peace, Julie

Anita Mae Draper said...

Ruthy, I love your cheer! LOL

Excellent post, Cheryl. Steadfast Soldier arrived in my eHarl box yesterday. Yay!

So, you don't have to include me in the draw. Well, unless you want me to donate it my local library or give away on my blog or something.

97%, eh. That's quite overwhelming.


Cindy R. Wilson said...

I can't believe 97% said by the end of the first page. I am definitely looking over my first few pages of my WIP again!

I've always struggled with the opening paragraph. I tend to ease the reader into the story, so I've never really written a stand-out hook. I'm working on tossing something into the first few sentences on the WIP. We'll see how it works out.

By the way, Cheryl, your book sounds wonderful!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

I am wondering about what editors mean by the first page. For instance when a ms is submitted by the time you write your name, line, title, chapter number, etc. there really is only about a paragraph or two left at the bottom of that first page. Is that really all they read?

I'm also curious to know in which order they read submissions. For example, do they read the query, first page of the manuscript, and then the synopsis or some other order?

Thanks for any thoughts you have!

Please enter me into the contest:
EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

Janet Kerr said...

Thanks for the info Cheryl,
On the first page I can see my characters and it is imparting this to the reader that I find challenging.
On TV we CAN see them!

Tina Pinson said...

Great post,

So my first page problem is my first page. GOL that's a big percentage that's making decisions on the first page.

I want to draw the reader in, but I also don't want to make my first page so wonderful and forget the rest of the story. That is one of my pet.

Yes, I want to pique interest, but the story has to carry the tempo throughout.

I'd like to think I have a balance, but one can always learn more and keep checking to make sure their story has good flow and keeps the readers interest.

Another pet peeve stories that keep on at such a clip, inundating me with short sentences across the board. I like to settle in and take a slower pace. I want to give that to my reader.


Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thanks, Cheryl,for polling editors and agents. Such a revelation for me. I now know just how vital that first page is in decision making. My first page blues story was the difficulty in showing emotional reactions rather than telling. But through practice I'm improving, and it's easier now. Please enter my name for a copy of The First Five Pages. Thanks for the encouragement you gave to us along with the vital information. Also,congrats to Hannah.

Angela Bell said...

Great post. I think the hardest thing about writing the first page is avoiding a back story dump. After writing my first draft, I always have to go back and weed out the unnecessary information to save for later in the story.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Ya know...I'm seeing a pattern here. The last time I posted in Seekerville my dog had a vet appt. LOL!

I just now got home!

Rather than address each individual comment right now, let me touch on a couple things and answer some of the questions you all have asked.

As someone mentioned, do NOT let this knowlege paralize you. I NEVER perfect my first page until the rough draft is finished. Don't get hung up on your first page or you may never finish the book.

Press onward. You can spiff up your first page AFTER you have written your book. That's what I'd recommend.

To answer another question, yes, the first page is generally only a few paragraphs or less.

MOST agents/eds polled said they read the story first and the synopsis last.

MOST agents/eds DO read on quite a bit past the first page. Many of them read AT LEAST the first 50 pages...at least CBA eds/agents tend to. BUT they said that almost without exception, their first page impression remains the same no matter how far they read.

I think they can tell where an author is craft-wise by the end of that first page. A good resource to figure out where you are in learning your craft is to check out Randy Ingarmanson's Freshman, Sophmore, Junior, Senior article on his web site...the advanced fiction writing tutorials he does. That's a GREAT resource for aspiring writers. I have a link to Randy's site on my Web site www.cherylwyatt.com.

More in a minute.....


Kelly Freestone said...

That's really scary yet at the same time it pushes me to want my first 5 to be MAGNIFICENT! not just

Congrats on the book.
It looks cute.
When I'm on the Seekersville blog, I find it hard to read the post, due to the pictures that come up of titles, lol.
I've gotten so many ideas for my reading list, it's not even funny.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I want to encourage you to let these poll results make you all the more determined to send in your best work rather than discourage you from trying.

I also want to reiterate that most of those polled DO read past the first page, especially if they see promise in the work or if the writing style, characters or story really grabs them.

But most of them said that their initial first page impression almost always stands.

Sometimes it's just a matter of getting the right story in front of the right editor who is at the right house at the right time.

Sometimes rejection has to do with what the house publishes rather than the author's skill level. ESPECIALLY when the author IS at a publishable level yet cannot seem to break in.

This will be very important (and encouraging) to remember when I post results next month of their most common reason for rejection.

Okay...we got two new puppies and I need to go feed them before they get hypoglycemic.

Will attend to more comments in a bit.

IF you have questions about the poll, feel free to ask.

The main thing is not to let this statistic dishearten or discourage you. If you know this going into it, how fierce the competition is and how VERY important it is to send ONLY your VERY BEST work...you'll be WAY ahead of the game.

Your writing may be stellar and your story sublime, but if your characters aren't likable...that can turn them off. Another turn off was when they could tell the author didn't proofread typos or take time to fix glaring grammar or formatting issues.

So you need to understand that it is NOT the editor's job to fix your grammar and punctuation problems. Yes, you will miss some. Yes they will take care of that on line edits. But when you are trying to break in, get it as perfect as possible. Noah's book goes into great detail about Presentation and how VITAL that is.

Still, the above mentioned things are not the biggest reason they reject. More on that next month, but I wanted to mention the above things because they have to do particularly with the first page which IS going to be their first impression. You want their first reaction to your work to be positive.

So reach for excellence in correcting errors. If you're weak with the mecanics, get someone to proofread it who isn't.

Someone, Cathy S I believe, asked if this poll applied only to new writers. YES. Established authors already have an in. Once in, we can't slack though. We still have to strive to make each book better than the last and continually improve our craft and our mechanics and send in our best professional work.

But this poll is directed to those still trying to break in for the first time. "Slush pile" means unsolicited manuscripts and occasionally manuscripts that have been requested at conferences, etc and are sent in by previously unpublished authors.

I imagine they read more if it's an already-established author who writes for another house. I say that because generally our writing improves as we work with editors, agents and industry professionals. So the writing is already going to (HOPEFULLY! LOL) be at a professional level because the author knows what editors expect.

Working with editors on the different types of edits grows you and that's a good thing. You can apply what they teach you with one book to subsequent books.

Unpublished authors haven't had the privilege or experience of working with the professionals so they are already at a disadvantage. This is why it's that much more important to make sure you are sending your best work and that you are not hasty in submitting too soon.

Contests with conscientous judges CAN be a great way to see where you are and if improvements still need to be made before you submit.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Someone (NO ONE HERE) mentioned on a writing loop once that she thought the majority of those submitting to a certain contest she coordinated should not have entered the contest because they weren't far enough along.

I strongly disagree with this mindset. Contests can be a GREAT way for new writers to learn. Feedback can be very valuable, especially if more than one judge points out the same thing not knowing another judge did also.

Contest aren't just for people who expect to final or who are only entering to get their work in front of the final judge agent or editor.

It's perfectly fine to use contests as a guage to see where you are in your level (or in Randy's terms...what learning grade you're in as a writer) is.

After all, you pay money to enter and good feedback from experienced, honest judges is worth the price of an entry fee. I grew big time as a result of contest feedback.

Of course I had some HORRID judges too...but that's a risk you take. Getting contest feedback will prepare you to work professionally with editors whose job is to give you feedback. LOL!

And getting a contest feedback from an icky, harsh judge CAN prepare you for bad reviews from people who will slam your book in public.

AT LEAST contest scores and critiques are kept private. LOL!

I'd die of embarrassment if you all saw my first five contest results. Not only did I COMPLETELY bomb them...I was over a hundred points below the lowest scoring entry. LOLOL!

But after a few years I finaled consistenly and eventually sold. Contest feedback and scores were a good thermometer of when my craft level was growing.

Hope this makes sense. Wanted to toss that out there since contests are what caused all of of Seekers to meet each other.

Okay...hungry puppies are blinking at me...I'll be back later.


Pam Hillman said...

Cheryl, thanks for sharing this! Wow! I would have thought the first 3-5 pages, or the first scene, but not the first page!

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I don't want you guys to get hung up on perfecting your first page and forgetting the point of my posting this.

I think that that first page is a barometer for what the rest of your writing and book and characters are like. Eds/agents can tell in just those few paragraphs your writing style, caliber of craft and whether you are sloppy or professional in your presentatino with things like mechanics of grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.

You can't just write a stellar first page then let the rest of the book go to pot. LOL! After you finish the rough draft (don't worry or fret about where to start, just start writing and press through). All that stuff is super easy to change later. You can always start your story later after you finish the book.

The important thing is to get the thing written before concentrating on getting it right.

THEN, you can go through and perfect your first page. THEN you can continue through the rough-drafted manuscript and give each page the kind of detail that you gave your first page.

Let me know if I haven't answered a question that's burning holes in your mind. LOL!

One pup fed, one to go...


Cheryl Wyatt said...




Cheryl Wyatt said...

AMBER...LOVE the cookies! YUM.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Eva, by "first page" they mean the actual beginning of the story. Not your cover letter or synopsis or any of that.

Does this answer your question?

As many have mentioned, that first page is an indicator to them of where you are at in your level of writing craft knowlege, skill, professionalism, etc.

They get good enough to KNOW by the first page and their first impressions rarely let them down.

That said, they all DID say that they DO read more. They just KNOW by the end of page one.

Some ABA eds said they do NOT read past the first page. A couple of them said they know by the first line. So thankfully CBA are a little more merciful...but they still read enough submissions to know the caliber of writer and whether it's a project that will work for them in just a few paragraphs.


Kathy said...

Congratulations, Hannah!

Cheryl thank you for being so clear in your comments to us. The love and concern of people on this site just blows me away.

Hugs to everyone from West Texas today!


Anonymous said...

I am an aspiring writer who needs to find the discipline to actually sit down and right. I have read and your article confirms how important those first few pages are.
Karen M (gods_princess3)at yahoo dot com

Sheila Deeth said...

Scary. Got to work on that. Thanks.

Renee said...

Hannah, congratulations!!!! That is super awesome.

prashant said...

Thanks again! I have some more of my mom's baking to share again today
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