The First Five Minutes: How Editors Evaluate Your Manuscript

afternoon, I presented a webinar with Alice Pope on how you can critically review your manuscript (particularly the first pages) for red flags that lead to a rejection from an editor or agent. A big thank-you to the first 25 participants who were courageous enough to allow us to critique their first pages!

For my blog readers, here are the common problems that we identified during the webinar:

  • Flashback on first page
  • Too much backstory or explanation, slowing story down
  • Waiting for the protagonist to appear (or unclear protagonist)
  • Starting with an alarm clock or ringing phone
  • Lots of characters introduced on first page
  • Ordinary day stuff (getting out of bed, walking to kitchen, etc)
  • Ordinary crisis moment without distinct voice or twist
  • Too much telling about the story, not enough showing
  • Nothing happens — no action or problem
  • Interior monologue: in character’s head, just lots of thinking, no acting or interaction with anyone else
  • Predictable story start or story line without a unique take
  • More of a journal entry (stream of consciousness), and not a story
  • Wrong starting point; not starting at a point of change
  • Too confusing, not enough reason or motivation to figure out what’s happening

Participants: Be on the lookout for your critique checklist, Q&As that we didn’t have time to answer, as well as the specific notes on your manuscript (if yours was used).

Here are other excellent resources:

you attended the webinar, thank you very much for joining me and Alice, and I hope
you found the information you were looking for. Don’t forget to network
with me on Facebook, Twitter (@JaneFriedman), and LinkedIn; I regularly
post and share information of interest to writers seeking publication.

Check out next webinar! Online Promotion & Marketing (March 31)

Future webinars also include:

  • Extreme Query Letter Makeover
  • How to Negotiate Any Book Publishing Contract
  • How to Land a Literary Agent

Click here to view details on all. (Click on “Live Sessions”, then on “Upcoming Sessions”.)

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0 thoughts on “The First Five Minutes: How Editors Evaluate Your Manuscript

  1. Rebecca

    Thanks for that info. I’ve written two novels in the last couple of years. I’ve edited the first one a few times but reading this I think I need to edit it AGAIN. I’ve only sent it off to one agent so far but I really want to get the ball moving now so I’m editing like a mad thing and building up a following online so I’m ready when the big ‘yes’ comes!


  2. Jane Friedman

    Flash forwards as a preface? If the reader understood it was in the future (that is, it wasn’t merely a tool for confusion), that could certainly be an interesting device to creating suspense/intrigue. I don’t think it has the same risk factor as a flashback.

    I wonder if any readers of this blog can think of an example of a published book that uses a flash forward to start?