It is a much loved and equally terrifying tradition at the James River Writers Writing Conferences to offer intrepid writers the opportunity to have their first page randomly selected, read aloud, and critiqued in a Plenary Session.
|Preparing for First Pages|
The JRW First Pages panels have been known to be instructive and sometimes, brutally honest, so submitting is not for the faint-hearted. Nothing less than the writer's absolute BEST EFFORT should be offered. Anything less will be spotted right off the bat and the experience about as pleasant as being struck by that bat. However, the advice is given to help improve the work and not to "make friends," so be warned.
This year's panel was no less instructive than prior years and perhaps a little harsher than some, but far from the harshest to grace the stage.
Here are some of my notes in the hopes that you'll find some of them as insightful and helpful as I did:
- First page has to set place, person or plot - as many as possible if not all
- "Disputation is key"
- Grammatical errors are unacceptable - these pages are your key to the kingdom and lack of attention to detail here speak poorly of your skill
- Pacing should be immediately evident and appropriate to your genre
- The much lauded "hook" MUST be presented immediately or the agent/editor will become the one that got away
- Voice - give the agent/editor the full impact of your character's unique voice as well as your own
- Don't introduce too many characters in that first scene overwhelming the agent/editor/reader
This is the purpose of the First Pages session - to educate, to illustrate, and to assist. For the fortunate souls whose pages were read and critiqued, the lesson may not have been painless, but there's no way they could be discounted as anything less than golden.
My thanks to the panel who offered their best advice and comments.
My congratulations to the folks whose pages were read - go forth, revise, and conquer!