One of the most popular, fun workshops at the Crested Butte Writers Conference was the First Page Cold Reads by agents Colleen Lindsay of Fineprint, Don Maass of Maass agency, editors Lisa Rector of Third Draft, Adam Wilson, MIRA and Kate Ninzel of Morrow/ Harper Collins.
We all know that the publishing industry is incredibly finicky, but here are a few things that annoyed our agents and editors when they read the first pages of fiction books:
1) Start with ACTION!
No thinking while standing, staring, waking up, in the shower, and no dreams.
No starting with long, elaborate descriptions of the weather (or ANY weather descriptions for Don Maass--unless you want to watch his head hit the table--repeatedly).
No passive voice.
No first name-last name for Kate Nintzel. Starting with Jane Dolittle lay on the concrete slab, would make her crazy
2) Make them care about the character immediately.
3) Pull them into the story in the very first paragraph, with strong word choices, action and great dialogue so they have to keep turning pages!
But I must admit, after awhile it was a little fun to watch their agony. And when we had a passive voice opening, with first/last name (in the first sentence) with long elaborate descriptions of the weather . . . evil grin here--I WOULD have written it and planted it in the pile to be read on purpose just to watch their reactions.