The opening of your story or novel is the most important. You have only a few paragraphs to catch the readers attention. Some would say you have to grab them from the opening line, and I’d agree.
Here are three resources and workshops for improving your openings:
1) HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SPECULATIVE FICTION OPENINGS, by Robert Qualkinbush
Robert, a member of the critters.org “crit-f0r-crat” critique website, has has analyzed the openings of over 1,400 speculative fiction pieces — science fiction, fantasy, and some horror — from both professionals and new writers and he’s found what makes professional stories work.
Did you know that 80% of spec-fic stories that sell start with “telling/summary” rather than “showing/scenes?”
Workshop: critters.org (free — crit for crat)
Sign-up with critters to have other spec-fic writers critique your opening.
The first book I ever read on improving your openings. Covers the concept of the “inciting incident” — also known as the “plot catalyst.” It’s what sets your story in motion… and is the crucial event or “trouble” that sets the whole story in motion, that extraordinary situation that forces the protagonist out of his everyday routine.The event that forces him or her to act.
Hooked is a must-read for any other who has yet to crack a sale in any fiction market. You’ll learn what kind of openings work in today’s marketplace. If you still think that something written 20 years ago would sell today, pick this up and you’ll be enlightened.
Workshop: NYWW Beginnings II ($535 entry fee for 7 sessions)
When you sign-up for Les’ course, he’ll personally help you hammer your opening into shape. The workshop consists of 7 skype sessions, and each week your homework is to send in a new revision of your opening until you nail the inciting incident. Once out of “inciting incident hell,” Les will help you hammer out the following pages.
Also teaching the course is Jenny Milnchman, and she’ll offer her own views on your work. She also covers the publishing aspect of the industry during the skype sessions.
I’ve taken this workshop twice, and can highly recommend it. Without Les’ help my novels opening would be nowhere near as “hooky” as it is today!
3) Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop with literary agent Kristin Nelson
Have you ever wondered how an agent reads the fiction submission slush pile? What an agent is thinking during the first opening pages? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop. Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read the first two pages of any submission, the “slush pile,” and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not read on for the sample pages in front of her. Authors remain anonymous.
Workshop: Agent Reads The Slush Pile ($68 fee for single 2-hr session)
This workshop takes place July 25, 2012. I took the May workshop, and loved it. There were around 70 submissions, and Kirstin and Anita picked out around 15 to read. Mine was one of the lucky few to be selected, because Anita and Kirstin had decided to reward the first person who signed up, which just so happened to be me! The feedback was phenomenal, and my novel’s opening is much improved for it.
You send in the first page of your novel and Cat and Louise will critique and discuss it. They also talk about agents, editors and how important the first page is when engaging them.
Workshop: First Pages Workshop ($99 single 2-hr session)
I haven’t taken this workshop yet, but I’ve signed up for the June workshop so I’ll report back here on it!
Cat also teaches a “Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction Short Stories” workshop, a six week workshop focusing on the basics of writing speculative fiction short stories, including plotting, creating believable and engaging characters, world-building, what to do with a story once it’s finished, dealing with editors and markets, and other necessities. I haven’t taken this one either, but I’ve heard good things about it. You can read about it at the above link.
5) Bonus: Query Letter Review and Critique Workshop with literary agent Marisa A. Corvisiero
Once you have finished writing your book you’re ready to get a Literary Agent. This workshop will briefly review how to find the right Literary Agent for your work, and then will walk you through the preparation of your query letter. Query letters are submitted advance and each participant’s letter is reviewed during the hour so that authors learn how to fix their letters from the critique and feed back provided. Authors remain anonymous.
This workshop takes place Tuesday, May 29, over Google Places video chat. I’ve signed up and I’ll report back on it!
So there you have it. Five workshops that will help you kick your beginning into shape. While it may not spark a bidding war for your work, it might just grab the interest of an agent or editor.