A couple of weeks ago, at the Columbus Ohio Writer’s Fiction conference, agent Kristin Nelson, President and Senior Literary agent of Nelson Literacy Agency, read a selection of two page openings from attendees’ books. We entered one, but didn’t get chosen. However, we gleaned a lot of good information from her workshop.
Here’s as quick rundown of the tips Kristen gave.
- Don’t retell what you’ve shown already
- Don’t start your opening with a dream sequence.
- Watch overdoing descriptions.
- Physical descriptions must be organic and important to the scene.
- Use the most powerful words you can.
- Beginning a story with bodily functions (i.e. vomiting) is a no-no.
- Anchor your opening in physical space and time.
- Streams of consciousness are hard to follow, especially when they aren’t anchored in time and space.
- Everything in your first two pages has to count.
- Start with emotionally resonating stuff.
- Immerse the readers in what your character is feeling
- Watch the overwriting—less really is more.
While her critiques may have been disheartening to those writers who were read, she left us with this piece of advice: Where you are as a writer is not where you will be as a writer in six months.
If you go back and read some of your earlier writings and compare them to today, after you’ve practiced and studied the craft you’ll see just how true her statement is.
Are you guilty of any of these writing mistakes?