I keep hearing about how you need to 'wow' agents with your opening pages. For the purpose of this blog post (and getting published), I am going to set aside my basic mistrust of people who use the word 'wow' as a verb, because such people are often very smart and have good advice.
And on this, I agree. As a reader, the first few pages have to wow me. I have been known to put books down because I hated the opening line. I can only imagine how much more this applies to agents, who are reading for work and have demands on their time.
A few days ago, I opened up the novel I'm editing, and said to myself 'Right.' (all of my internal talkings-to begin with the word 'right', said emphatically in my very Irish accent). 'It is time to edit this thing. Start at the beginning.'
I couldn't get going. The pressure of rewriting the first few pages with added wow was paralysing.
My current opening line is 'Claire was lost in a world of press releases when the text message came in.' Not much, when you stack it up against 'It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York,' or 'Marley was dead to begin with,' or 'What do you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died?' or 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.'
Text messages and press releases. Welcome to the 21st century :)
I kept staring at the first line. I needed wow factor. I needed top-notch prose. I needed to stop staring at the screen and do something.
So rather than deal with the internal pressure to make this brilliant right away, I decided not to edit in a linear way. I've made a list of what needs to be done, and I'm going to start by tackling the major changes, and then move on to line-editing what's left. I hope that the major plot and character changes will naturally suggest a new, stronger opening, but if not, I'll be in a better place to edit the opening when I know what shape the finished book has taken.
How do you guys edit? Any tips for creating kick-ass openings?