Employers spend an average of just 30 seconds scanning each job resumé.  If you don’t make an immediate positive impression, you won’t get called in for an interview.

The same half-minute scan holds true for your fiction.  One page is all you have to hook an agent or editor and entice them to keep reading.  Without a strong voice, a compelling hook and sharp writing, you’re doomed for a swim with the slushies.

It therefore makes sense to attend a first page critique.  The neighborhood kids may giggle over your tale, your friends might deem it wonderful, and your critique partners may even bless it as ready for submission.  But a professional opinion is your best literary litmus test.

A professional first page critique can answer these questions:

  • Is your writing appropriate for the genre?  Does the voice match the target age range?  Is your picture book too wordy; is your young adult novel too simple?
  • Do you have a truly unique premise?  Certain subjects—like fairies and witches—may be popular at the moment, but that also means the market could be saturated.  If you’re writing about fairies or witches, your idea should really stand out from the books already on the shelves.
  • Have you left enough questions for the reader to want to continue?  Or do you leave the reader too confused instead?
  • If you’re writing in rhyme, does it have a consistent scheme?  Does it move the story along or bog it down?
  • Does your dialogue sound authentic?
  • Are you telling the tale in the most appropriate point of view?
  • Can a child relate to the story?
  • Does the reader get an immediate sense of who/what/when/where?  Can the reader imagine herself in the book’s setting?
  • Are you beginning the tale at the right place?

Wow!  All this just from a first page?  Absolutely!

Professional editors and agents know the latest trends in the literary marketplace and they see hundreds—if not thousands—of first pages every month.  The highly competitive book publishing business dictates that they weed out undesirable stories as quickly as possible in order to get to the good ones.

Thirty seconds is all you have.  Make them work for you.