I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, Magical Musings, and the topic was about “Beginnings” by guest blogger, Carolyn Jewel. She was talking about finding the real beginning, and maybe the beginning you think is your beginning really isn't. Novels really start somewhere in the middle according to her, and I agree. It's finding the right place in the middle that's the key.
By some weird magical blogging serendipity, on the same day, the illustrious Miss Snark posts the beginning sample pages she requested from the “Crap-o-meter.” I love it when everything in the universe seems to converge like this.
Over and over again, about these first pages she says: “this is all set-up” Almost everything sent in spent pages setting the scene rather than just getting into the story. Three guesses what is going to put you ahead of the competition once you get over the query hurdle? If you guessed a kickass, strong, in the thick of it beginning, you guessed right. You get a stuffed teddy bear.
Over and over again people in the industry tell writers what they're looking for, and over and over, writers, even savvy ones, give them the exact opposite saying: “But....mine is different...”
This is true of query letters also. Several times I've heard agents say: “keep it short and to the point.” They cite repeatedly how rare it is to get a SHORT query letter. And yet...despite these blatant instructions, writers still send in long letters. I mean sure, the query letter has to be good, but don't you think you might stand out by being concise? (Yes, this will be a hurdle for “the zoe” clearly, but I'll still do it...and freaking hell if *I* can be concise, I don't want to hear that you can't.)
Same with if they ask for a partial...If you know that most people give too much set-up in the beginning pages and don't get right into it...don't kid yourself that yours is some kind of exception. Give them what they ask for. Be the rare writer that gives a good and concise query letter, and then the even rarer writer that gets right into the story instead of giving five pages of set-up.
It'll put you in the top ten percent, and that ups your odds considerably. If you persist in believing that publishing is a big lottery...look at your query letters and sample chapters. Do you find yourself saying: “But...mine is different...?”