This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.
The editors of literary magazines (myself included) will tell you again and again that a story is made and lost by its first page so much of the time. Again and again I see stories that start to really pick up and present their conflict on page two. Sometimes we editors can forgive that of the story, and sometimes we just don’t have the time to do a writer’s work for him. Why does this keep happening?
You, dedicated editor, can get a leg up on the competition today by being smart about your first page. Look back at the opening of your story. Do we slice swiftly into the meat of the conflict, or do we meander for a while? Is there prologue and obfuscation? Is there no sign of a distinctive character or voice? These are things that can be fixed.
Today, draw one big red bloody line across your first page and see what you have. The second page might be a big nonsensical without some of what you’ve lost, so try starting over and doing some re-writing today. Focus on getting to the action of the second page as quickly as you can. Think of today’s exercise as a temporary experiment; if, at the end of the day, you think you’ve sacrificed too much, you are permitted to reinstate that page. But just try it for today. You may be shocked by how vital and fast-moving your story suddenly becomes.
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