the discussion on Chapter 1
no-no’s. See part I here!
The current issue of Writer’s Digest magazine (Sept/Oct 08) has a piece in it that I wrote on literary agents’ chapter 1 pet peeves. For it, I basically just contacted a whole bunch of agents – new and experienced, fiction and nonfiction, Christian and not, juvenile and adult – and asked them all what they hate to see in chapter 1.
They gave a lot of great feedback – real good practical stuff touching on cliches and pet peeves and overused beginnings. Here is some of the responses that we put in the printed article:
“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
“Slow writing with a lot of description puts me off very quickly. I like a first chapter that moves quickly and draws me in so I’m immediately hooked.”
– Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst Literary Management
“Avoid any description of the weather.”
– Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency
“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
– Cricket Freeman, August Agency
“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue. Or opening with a hook that’s just too convoluted to be truly interesting.”
– Daniel Lazar, Writers House
” ‘The Weather’ is always a problem – the author feels he has to set up the scene and tell us who the characters are, etc. I like starting a story in media res.”
– Elizabeth Pomada, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents