Those of you who know me at all know that I am a compulsive researcher. If I have to do anything more serious than go to the dentist, I will spend hours, if not days, researching my task (OK, I'd do that for finding a dentist as well). So now that I am preparing to query agents with my first novel, I have spent months researching agents, reading their blogs, googling what makes a perfect query, ideal synopsis, and compelling first five pages. (For those of you not familiar with publishing, that's all you get to hook an agent and a publisher).
I recently started reading a currently 'hot' book. I was looking forward to reading it, not only because the title was intriguing and it features heavily in the bookstores these days, but because it falls under the same genre as my little work in progress. And do you know what happened? I started to read like an agent.
I wasn't five pages into it when I started grumbling. And my grumbling went something like this: "How did this author ever get an agent? Look how wordy it is. No conflict in the prologue, nothing that makes me want to read beyond these first six pages." So then I moved on to Chapter 1. And I started channelling an agent again. I was looking for something compelling and didn't find it. Here we have the protagonist. On the first page of Chapter 1, she is standing in a high pressure situation. So what does the author do? She doesn't build on the tension, she doesn't let us feel her agony. She spends the next TWO PAGES giving us backstory. Then, we finally get into the situation, she gives us dry academic stuff, full of 'see how smart I am' information. By page 4, I was done.
Now, I know it is highly unlikely that any of the agents that I am following (Janet, Rachel, Nathan, Jennifer, Jenny, Kristin, and many others...) are going to be reading my humble little blog but I just want them to know I'm listening and I'm learning. And I am OH SO GRATEFUL. It is because of their knowledge, their generosity with their time, that I have learned how important it is to get those first five pages right, not just for the agent but for the reader as well.
I might go back and try to finish up 'that book', but then again, I might not. So many books, so little time.