Sometimes writers spend months just on the first page of their manuscript. They do this because editors and agents often remind them that they stop reading after the first page, if it isn’t good enough to keep going. And truthfully, readers often do the same thing. If they don’t get grabbed by the first page (hell, sometimes by the first paragraph or first sentence), they put the book down and move onto another one.
But the solution to this problem isn’t to focus only on the first page. Too often, I see first pages that are completely different from the rest of the book. Not just in style, but in substance. A writer will have hit on what sounds like a perfect first sentence. And it’s intriguing, well-written, everything you could want. Except that it has very little if anything to do with the rest of the book.
So, what to do? Give up?
No, that’s not what I’m saying.
I’m just suggesting that you need to spend as much time on the second half of the book as on the first. And if the first page or first chapter needs five or six times more attention than other chapters, OK, but not fifty or sixty times more attention.
And then I have one last thing to say–sometimes the way to come to the perfect first page or first chapter isn’t the way you’re going about it, by focusing on the first page and rewriting it over and over again. Sometimes the perfect first page comes from writing the perfect ending, and it comes to you like a bolt of lightning.
Or it doesn’t come as quickly as that. It comes slowly, gradually, while you’re building all the other pieces of the book. It comes when you see how all the pieces have to fit together, and you realize it matters less which piece comes first and how beautiful the way they fit together is.