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, Uwe Stender’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.
Amy: 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?
Uwe: Very important, because it has to get my attention. BUT: it’s only one sentence out of 75,000 words or so.
Amy: 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?
Uwe: My answer is: NONE, because if you are a great writer you should start with whatever you want to start with and then write a great novel!… And now, I want to apologize to all of you readers about the tangent I will embark on.
I often compare novels to music. So, let’s take the first sounds of a song as a comparison. Listen to the classic opening of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes from 1963. Then listen to 1964’s “Don’t Worry Baby,” by The Beach Boys, then to 1976’s Billy Joel “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” then to 1985’s “Just Like Honey” by Jesus and Mary Chain, then to 2001’s “Eighties Fan” by Camera Obscura, then to 2011’s Lykke Liu’s “Sadness Is A Blessing,” then to 2012’s Joey Ramone “Party Line,” then to 2013’s MØ “Never Wanna Know,” you get the idea once you listen to them…Essentially the same opening, but they all develop into totally different songs and each of the songs is equally wonderful to me…so don’t limit yourself, or exclude anything.
Amy: 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?
Uwe: The voice and the plot! Create a desire in me to want to read more.
Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?
Uwe: Many authors unleash too much backstory on the unsuspecting reader. Let the story, the plot, the characters develop and breathe.
Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?
Uwe: All of it, but mostly the voice. You can change and teach plot and pacing. Voice cannot be taught, it’s a gift. You have it or you don’t.
His best known clients are actress Melody Thomas Scott, CNN HLN and TruTV’s In Session News Anchor Christi Paul, Eric Deggans,former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, 4 time Grammy Award winning composer Lalo Schifrin (“Mission Impossible”), Elizabeth LaBan, Stacy Tornio, and legendary NBA referee Bob Delaney.
Uwe was a guest speaker at several major conferences including the SCWC in San Diego, the Crimebake (Mystery Writers of America New England Chapter), the Writers’ League of Texas in Austin, Penn Writers, and he spoke on a panel at the Book Expo America in New York City.
If you’re interested in submitting to Uwe, please make sure to check the TriadaUS Literary Agency website for their guidelines.