This is topic "First Five Pages" in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=1;t=003578

Posted by AstroStewart (Member # 2597) on :
I've finally reached the point with my novel that I'm beginning to send out query letters to agents, beleiving it to be refined enough to be worthy their attention (hopefully *crosses fingers*). In the process of creating a list of agents I will eventually want to submit to (I took the advice I found... somewhere... to send query batches of about 10 at a time) some of them call for emailing or snail mailing a query letter and the "first five pages."

The first, more obvious question: does this five pages mean five double sided 12pt Courier, correct margin, etc etc manuscript pages? (roughly 900 words, in my novel anyway) or five pages in a more standard reading-only format (roughly 1800 words). After all, it's not like the agent wants to sit down and start critiquing every page right now, they just want a feel for your writing, and 5 pages double spaced seems like just so *little* to put down.

The more complex question is the following. Many places say you should start your story, your novel, when the "action" begins. But there are also comments (one, especially, I read from one of those agent blogs about common mistakes) that say that if your novel essentially starts with "MC's life gets turned upside down" the reader needs to see what his life WAS first, or we have no basis of comparison. While there is definitely a hook in the first few pages, it's not what I'd call the "main hook" of the book, which presents itself in the middle/end of chapter one. It's more of an immidiate, short term hook that gets resolved in the first chapter, as part of my MC's normal lifestyle before it gets "turned upside down."

Because I'm not starting my novel right off with some giant explosion or what have you, but easing the reader into the world, finally revealing the real "mystery" or intrigue of the book at the end of the first chapter (roughly 6000 words in) I can't help but feel that no agent is going to be intrigued by my novel reading the first five pages.

I suppose the "main hook" of the novel is the reason you include a mini-synopsis/hook in the query letter. Am I just being paranoid, because this is the first time I've actually, finally delved into the submission process?

Thanks in advance for any/all input/experience.

Posted by Survivor (Member # 213) on :
A thousand words is plenty. Like you said, these agents aren't going to be critting your manuscript, they just want to get an idea whether they like your writing enough to call you back. I'm assuming that they want the "first five pages" of your manuscript. Which means that those first five pages should probably be in manuscript format, unless they specify otherwise.

Your first five pages shouldn't bore or confuse an experienced reader. That's all.

Posted by SilentOne (Member # 4814) on :
For a short story, the action should come right at the beginning. But for a novel, you should set the stage a little first. I would not bring in the mystery any sooner than the end of the first chapter.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2