I recently read about a contest where writers could send a portion of their work to an agent. One person would receive a request for the full manuscript. Nice offer! The rules allowed each writer to send the first 100 words of their book. Yes, you read that right. One hundred words, plus or minus a few to complete a sentence. We’re talking about one or two paragraphs. The contest winner would have no guarantee the agent would decide to represent them after seeing their full manuscript.
Competition is stiff in the writing world. Agents and publishers require top quality.
My 100 word cut off is at the end of the previous sentence. No room for errors or a boring start. I’m glad this blog post isn’t the deciding point on an agent’s interest in my manuscript!
It is vital to capture the reader’s attention on that first page. When you begin reading a dull book are you inclined to continue reading? How far do you read before you toss the book under your bed and never retrieve it? I’d guess you might give it a chapter or even two chapters if the subject matter had a bit of interest.
- Take a look at the first 100 words of several favorite books. Would you ask for a complete manuscript based on what you read? What captured your interest in those words? Why did you want to continue reading?
- Check the first page of your manuscript. Does it have the pizzazz to grab the reader’s attention?
- Have several critique partners look at your first page. Ask them if they would continue to read the rest of the first chapter, or the whole book based on the opening impression?
- Edit, polish, and practice the writing craft until your words pull the reader into your story world from the beginning until the end.
The annual contest on this site is a good place to get feedback about your writing. We allow you to send 5 pages. That’s a generous offer compared to 100 words. We assume you’re here to learn and grow as a writer. Even published writers continue to study and learn from the advice of fellow authors. Each contributor to this site probably has several partners who suggest improvements, deletions, or revisions, to our “manuscripts in progress.” So don’t be shy. Polish those pages and make us want to read the rest of your book. We’ll give you a deadline for the contest entry soon.