Friday, September 19, 2014

The October Mystery Agent contest is coming! Is your first 250 ready?

TGIF, Operation Awesome! In case you missed it, our October Mystery Agent lottery is open until next Thursday, September 25th. Our awesome MA is seeking MG, YA (any & all genres!), women's fiction, historical fiction, and romance (historical, contemporary, and new adult).

Our MA will be considering not only your Twitter-length pitches, but also the first 250 words of your manuscript, as well. When I was a querying writer, those contests were my favorite - a pitch could go either way, but when actual pages entered the equation, I knew that my entry would truly represent my manuscript, for better or worse.

So what makes a strong opening? Well... unfortunately, that is as subjective as the rest of this process. One reader may find your opening slow or confusing, and another may be hooked from the word 'go.'

But no matter what kind of opening I'm reading, there's one thing I can't go without: grounding. Sometimes, in an effort to avoid the dreaded infodump, the writer will catapult the readers into a dynamic, dramatic scene, hoping to grab their attention that way. And some writers can pull off an in media res opening beautifully! But without grounding - an idea of who these people are, and the rules of the world they live in - the stakes just aren't there for me.

If I don't know the main character yet, I'm just not going to be invested in their success. But that doesn't mean I have to understand absolutely everything within that first page! It really only takes a few well-placed, specific details to get readers interested in what you have to offer. A hook doesn't have to be an explosion. It can be an intriguing setting, a relationship dynamic, or just a character I instantly like. That's what will keep me begging for the next page.

What do you look for in an opening?

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