How to Write: the first page

It’s day three of our How to Write series!

How are you feeling? Pumped? Motivated? Ready to shake up the writing world and get something started?

We’ve already covered nailing your blurb, characters, and first line, and how to create a super-interesting first paragraph, and today it’s all about getting yourself off your butt to lengthen it and make it into a first page.

It is not too late!

Now, there are a heap of places on the Internet that talk about what a good first page is all about. You could spend HOURS looking and learning everyone’s opinion on the matter, and believe me, there are as many opinions as there are writers, so don’t bother. Just listen to me (grin).

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FIRST PAGE?
Well, first (hah, there is that word again!) it should ramp up the interest level that was raised in that first paragraph. That first paragraph was a bare bones hook, and the rest of the page should be the meat on it. Give them something more to consider. ELUCIDATE. Dig deeper.

Things that you should NOT put on the first page

  • Do not write a prologue first. Just don’t. There is nothing that cannot be said as a first chapter. Which I will get into soon because hehe we are doing that “first” thing.
  • Don’t be namby pamby about what you want to say, readers do not want to read about a character waking up in the morning and squinting at the sunlight slanting through the blinds ON THE FIRST PAGE. Be mysterious, hint at a problem, but be ACTIVE — get the reader reading.
  • Don’t write a stale character. Give the reader that needed info to make that character come alive. Really make them know this person by unveiling the details that matter.
  • Don’t be sparse with your story setting. Place the reader–use all the senses, so they are living it.
  • Ah. We are over 300 words in this blog post already. Guess you want to see that first page? Let’s see if I can follow my own advice.

    THE FIRST PAGE

    Susan Whiting’s dream wedding began when she was a child playing dress-up in her mother’s sequined evening gown. Her dream never carried her farther than the end of the rose-petal strewn aisle.

    Each day when she rose from her matrimonial bed, Susan pinched herself to make sure she was really truly awake. Unlike a Lifetime movie where trouble doesn’t come until everything is settled and marriage is blissful, or one of those old shows where smiles and hugs conquer evil at the end, Susan acknowledged her mistake in the first week: she’d married the wrong man.

    For nine long years she’d tried to figure out how it had come to be that her husband wasn’t a good man. It wasn’t like she hadn’t prepared to find one. Four years at Ole Miss as a member of a sorority had given her ample opportunities to see the crop of rich men lounging in the Grove on game day.

    She’d listened to her sorority sisters discuss how to pick a rich husband and she’d watched them dance the wedding waltz with some of the best. Those determined ladies endured a lot of alcohol-induced sicknesses in order to be a part of the world where rich men played. Parties and more parties had produced a few things they didn’t want, but they’d all won in the end. Each one of them walked down a candle-lit aisle to a tuxedo-clad man and a bright future.

    Susan worked for that same ending. She’d gone to the same parties, rubbed elbows with the same crowds. How her outcome had been so very different, she couldn’t fathom. And it wasn’t like she’d trapped him with a pregnancy or some other ploy, either. Her desire to have a good life filled with money and comfort seemed like a simple need-driven plan and she’d done what they’d all done to have a happy ending.

    The fact that her newly married man was a drunk and a spend-thrift didn’t matter when they flew to the Mexican Riviera for their honeymoon. But now, nine years later, it mattered. It mattered a great deal.

    Okay, so…tomorrow is the fourth of July and I won’t be posting anymore until Sunday. When I return, I will discuss how to carry it to the next level. The first CHAPTER.
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    About master

    Kim Smith is the author of Disk of Death, The Dread Room, Love Inn, and An Unexpected Performance.

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