The All-Important First Five Pages
Once you've found an opening line that launches your plot and intrigues the reader, you're ready to write the first five pages, which will usually be the first scene of your novel. Even if your opening scene is considerably longer, it's important to pay close attention to those first five pages. Often, they are all a prospective reader will read before deciding whether to buy your book or move on to the next candidate.
Those prospective readers include editors and agents, too. Of course, for them, the first five pages of your romance novel are especially critical, since the sampling is a gauge of both your writing style and their interest in your project.
Do editors really reject a manuscript after only reading five pages?
Yes. Some editors will continue to read past the first five pages, but many claim to know whether they are likely to reject the manuscript after reading the opening. After all, editors and agents — much like romance readers — know what works for them and what doesn't, both of which are evident in the first five pages of a manuscript.
Since your goal in writing an opening is to convince the reader — whether an editor, agent, or a potential fan — that she needs to read your romance novel, you'll want to make sure your first five pages are rejection-proof. Using this checklist should help:
Do Your First Five Pages …
Have a great opening line that launches your plot?
Introduce the hero, heroine, or villain?
Introduce your main plot or major subplot?
Hint at your main characters' internal conflicts?
Have a sense of time and place?
Have little or no introspection?
Have more dialogue than narrative?
Leave the reader wondering what will happen next?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, congratulations! Chances are excellent that you've written a great opening to your romance novel.
Now you're ready to continue to the next step: writing an equally compelling first chapter.