What Agents and Editors want:
I was just going over some of my old conference notes and found this. Thought it might be interesting today. At the 2009 SCBWI Los Angeles Conference, editor Courtney Bongiolatti (Simon and Schuster), and agent Dan Lazar (Writer’s House) shared their views on what they look for in book openings. It all boils down to five main ingredients:
Immediately understanding the age of your character helps the agent/editor to get a feel for your book’s market. Age is often communicated through voice, therefore it is essential that your voice matches your intended characters age. Not to mention that the age of your character will change/effect the story you want to tell, so make sure it is appropriate.
Voice will be one of the first things to grab and editor/agents attention. They are looking for a strong and confident voice that jumps off the page. Voice can make or break your book so nail it from the start.
Start with an undeniable and interesting situation. Don’t begin with a character waking up and starting their day. Get to the action! A great example would be to start with an explosion, followed by a kid falling out of a plane – on page one! Put action and adventure into the first sentence!
You need to know the tone of your book and define it for an agent or editor. The tone will reveal if your book is commercial or literary. If you open with an explosion, then you book is probably commercial. Whereas a book with beautiful descriptions is probably literary. Tone will greatly effect how your book is perceived by an audience.
The magic happens when the reader is drawn in by character, compelling action, or strong voice.
Happy Writing! Christy Monson