The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

Something to consider when preparing a manuscript to send off to agents.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents.

They’re the ones on the front lines, sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter One approaches are overused and cliché, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work.

Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!

False beginnings

I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter One. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
- Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

In science fiction

A sci-fi…

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