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


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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Literary Prize for unpublished novels or short story collections

Any use to anyone?


unpublished novelThe SI Leeds Literary Prize for unpublished fiction by black and Asian women writers in the UK is now accepting entries for the 2014 Prize. The prize runs biennially and the first award was made in October 2012. The three prize winners receive £2,000, £750 and £250 for first, second and third place. The deadline is March 31st.
The prize has been created and run by Soroptimist International of Leeds, in partnership with the Ilkley Literature Festival and independent publishers Peepal Tree Press and has been supported by Arts Council England,

The Award is open to published and unpublished women writers, over the age of 18, of Black or Asian descent who are resident in the UK. Ethnicity will be self-defined by entrants. As a guideline, Black or Asian descent in the context of the Award signifies any black background, including:-

  • Black African

  • Black Caribbean

  • any other Black background

any Asian background, including

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