If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.
The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.
Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Cate Hart’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.
Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?
I think that first line really is crucial. I can tell an author has really put in the time and revisions when a first line really grabs me.
Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?
Arriving at a new destination, new school, new home. Dropping into the scene or the middle of an intense action sequence before I have a chance to get to know who the main character is.
When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?
I think the voice most of all, because I’ve found pages that normally wouldn’t be in my usual genres, but something about the voice hooked me. I also think that those first pages have set up questions I’m dying to find answers to, or set up a unique story I’m curious to see develop.
What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?
Too much exposition, or information, or backstory. On the opposite end, too much dialogue with little setting or internal thoughts to help me feel immersed in the world. The voice or the narration is not suited for the story or the genre.
What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?
I think first it’s a unique concept. I really have to fall in love with the story and have a clear idea of where I can place the story in the market. Second is the voice. A clever concept can fall flat if the voice isn’t well developed. Most times, I think pacing is something that can be worked with in revisions if the premise and the voice are strong enough.
Cate Hart is a Junior Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency, where she started as an intern working closely with Marisa Corvisiero and Saritza Hernandez. A Tennessee native, Cate earned her B.F.A. from the University of Tennessee. Before joining Corvisiero Literary Agency, Cate worked in financial management.
Cate is seeking Young Adult and Middle Grade, New Adult and Adult Romance (specifically Historical Romance), and select erotica and LGBT. She is a fan of quirky, character-driven Young Adult, and snort-out-loud Middle Grade adventure. She loves Historical and Fantasy and would like to find a steampunk that explores new settings and ideas beyond Victorian London. She is also interested in magical realism, high fantasy, mystery, and any combination of the above.
If you’re interested in submitting to Cate, please check the Corvisiero Literary Agency website for their guidelines.