Saturday, February 18, 2012

COSCBWI Meeting February 2012: First Pages

This month's COSCBWI meeting was a "First Pages" group critique meeting.  You may remember that I posted a summary of another "First Pages" critique meeting back in August 2011.  COSCBI likes to do one or two critique meetings each year so our members have a chance to get immediate feedback on their work in a constructive and friendly environment.  I love attending these meetings because there are always fresh perspectives to gain and new things to learn!

During this critique round, we discussed a few important things to remember when you are crafting the first page of your novel:

1) Figure out your intended audience and make the age of your character clear.  If your audience is preschoolers, you'll probably want to make your main character roughly the same age.  Same goes for middle grade and young adult literature, too.  (There is a bit of wiggle room in the older novels as teens tend to read up.)  Make sure the subject matter appeals to your intended audience as well.  First grade readers will probably not be interested in a love-triangle picture book with werewolves and vampires, while teenage readers really don't need a novel about learning to tie one's shoes.     

2) Make sure your story is kid-centric.  If your story is told from a parent's or other adult's point of view, kids probably won't relate to it very well.  Agents, editors, AND readers like stories where kids are empowered and solve their own problems.

3) Similarly, try to use "kid" words and vantages, particularly if your story is told from First Person Point of View.  Remember that kids see the world very differently than adults.  An eight year old character probably wouldn't ramble on about the various hues in a sunset for three paragraphs, but they would likely notice that the setting sun makes the ocean look like orange juice.  This is something to watch in dialogue, too.  No fifteen year old boy would say, "And how are you doing today, my good friend?" when they can just spew, "What's up?"

4)  A good writing trick is to make your sentences match your action.  If your first page starts with the main character sword fighting in the midst of a battle, the sentences should be short and choppy--not long, flowery, and detailed.  (i.e.  I watched the heathen approach.  His armor was silver and black with speckles of blood across the breastplate.  A plume of crow feathers graced his helmet; his sword glistened like moonlight on a frozen lake.  I was so busy admiring the details that he lopped my head off with one swipe.  The end.)   Similarly, if your scene is calm and introspective, punchy sentences are not the way to go.  (i.e. The sky was blue.  The grass smelled sweet.  A duck swooped onto the pond.  It quacked twice.  Seeing it float made me happy!  This is NOT calming.)

If you pay attention to these pointers on your first page, then your readers won't be able to resist turning to page two!  :) 

You can read my post about the other tips and tidbits we discussed in August's "First Pages" meeting here.  And if you live in Ohio and want to come to COSCBWI's next "First Pages" meeting, you can check out membership information and the calender of events at:

Happy writing!

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