Friday, 26 February 2010

First Page Promises

I wonder how much of a short story submission an editor actually reads. My guess is she (I only know of 2 male eds at the womags so I'll call her 'she') will speed read the first paragraph and decide immediately whether it's worth another five minutes of her precious time. I could be wrong, of course, but judging by the amount of rejections I've had this month I'd say I've been failing in what Sarah Duncan calls The First Page Promises - the need to grab a reader's attention as soon as possible with the promise they're in for a treat if they carry on.

In a short story I'd call it First Paragraph Promise or maybe even First Sentence Promise incorporating the who, what, why, where elements.

Here's an example taken from one of my shorts (Killing Doc Latimer) published in Woman's Weekly 2005:

Louise twirled spaghetti around her fork, unaware she was firing specks of sauce over her T shirt.
"Want to hear a confession?" I said.
She stopped twirling and gave me a hapless look. "Don't tell me anything that has to stay a secret, Donna. I won't mean to let the cat out of the bag but you know me and my loose lips."
"Relax. It'll be general knowledge by the weekend, anyway." I took a deep breath. "Thing is...I've killed Doctor Latimer."

Now I'm not saying the above is perfect but those few lines plunge you straight into the action. You get a sense of place, time and an insight into the characters and their relationship. Hopefully, you'll be intrigued to know why Donna's killed her GP and why she seems not to care too much if it becomes general knowledge.

Unless you're completely new to writing you'll be bored by now so I'll impart some more family news: My eldest son, Russ, has announced his engagement to Maria. The'll marry next Las Vegas! I need to sell an awful lot of stories to get me to Vegas, so I'd better stop blogging and do some serious scribbling.