(My) Butterflies are Free!

Well, I survived my first skinning on Miss Snark's First Victim blog. Still not sure who the agent is, but he/she was pretty brutal with some of his/her critiques. I was lucky. I came out only slightly bruised; which, given the depth of negative criticism towards some of the submissions, was a blessing. The experience was worth it, though, and I'll tell you why.

Some of the suggestions I got from folks (not from the SA, btw) were eye-opening and allowed me to tweak the first 250 words of my ms even more. I greatly appreciate that. It also made me look at the first page of my ms in a new light: as a whole world unto itself, which is an interesting and worthwhile exercise. Of course, there is no way to tell your story in the first page, and really, why on earth would you? This is your first 250 words, remember, not a query. However, it does help to see what an agent sees when they first glimpse your partial or full ms (or sometimes even your query, since many agents request the first five pages or so with your query). We, as writers, know what's ahead in the story. Agents don't.

The trick is to grab them "right away" while still maintaining the integrity of your work, and therein lies the challenge.

My suggestion to all of you wonderful writerly types out there is to grab your first 250 words or so (basically, your first page) and dig in. Here are a few of the things I adjusted due to this experience that made sense to me: (And, of course, you should only make changes if they ring true for you!)

1) Added a small bit of detail (from "window" to "big, bay window");
2) Noted the year of my mc's parent's car, letting readers know what year it is (from: "their car" to "their new, 1980 Dodge Colt");
3) Combined a couple of lines of dialogue eliminating unneccesary details;
4) Included my mc's age so it would be clear I'm not "flashing back" in my first scene.

For me, these small improvements were well worth the butterflies and angst of having my work "on display." But believe me, there were butterflies and plenty of them!

I highly suggest you try this yourself, maybe with a few trusted writer friends, and see what you come up with. You may be pleasantly surprised. It's a great exercise in wringing out the last few drops of the "good stuff" for your ever-important ms intro.
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