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One of the great things about attending presentations from successful authors, rather than just reading about them later, is the amount of useful information you get from the speaker that wasn’t even on the menu.


Saturday’s talk for the GSHW, by best-selling author and all-round good guy, Greg Frost, was no exception.


I thoroughly enjoyed his main lecture, ‘The Muse & Where to Find Her’, and if that was all I’d heard, I’d consider my time well-spent.  Among other things, he talked about the four stages of a scene or story.  He listed some of the many dualities of writing, then went on to puncture some of the myths about the craft.  We learned about Story Panic, and how Writer’s Block is often just your sub-conscious, incubating an idea, all of which I’ll cover in more detail in the article I write for the next issue of The Graveline, the GSHW newsletter.


For this post, I want to talk about one of the tips Greg gave after his lecture.  He told us about his stint as a slush reader for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, wading through 200 submissions a week.  While he was there, he soon realized that if the writer hadn’t hooked him by the end of the first page, there wasn’t much point reading the second. 


Okay, nothing knew in that, most slush readers do the same thing, unless they don’t have that many submissions.  The odd thing was, even though I’ve heard this many times before, I've always missed something else, until this time.


We all know the importance of a great first line, and how the first person identified in a short story should be the main character, but how many pay attention to that last line/paragraph on page one.  Greg says it's vital to treat that line as if it were the end of a chapter, ie: make it a page-turner.  "Because," he said, "If you can get the slush reader to turn over that first page, you're already way ahead of the curve.   

Needless to say, from now on, before I submit a story, I’m going to treat the bottom of page one with as much care and importance as the opening sentence.  Even if it means starting the story a line or two little lower down than normal.

 Hope that helps.  If you have some useful tips yourself, I'd love to hear them.                           

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Wow! Really...wow! That's some great advice. I'd never have thought that the last line of that first page could be so important. I don't really write shorts, but I imagine the same holds true for novels. You want them to turn to that second page. Get them to commit!

May. 12th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
I've heard people talk about the importance of the first line/paragraph so many times, but it was only on Saturday that I ever considered that last line on the page.

Now, if I could just do something about all those other lines, I might actually sell something :)
May. 12th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
He has also been blessed with some of the greatest covers ever for his books. That huge bridge city just makes you want to know what goes on within!
May. 13th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
He signed a copy of Shadowbridge for me on Saturday, so I'll find out soon :)
May. 13th, 2009 01:25 am (UTC)
An interesting post. I once read you get a paragraph to draw the slush reader, but I bet it is even less. Boy, this means you better knock some socks off right away!
May. 13th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
That seems to be the key. Of course, once we've knocked those socks off, we have to make sure they don't put them back on :)
May. 13th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
Good advice. I'll have to go back and read some of my stories and see where the first page ended.

I'll definitely use this technique in the future. Thanks.

Is there any way to get a copy of The Monmouth Muse I'll like to read what else you learned.
May. 13th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
I'll email you a copy when it comes out, but it won't be until June. Aside from my own feeble efforts, the GSHW newsletter is packed with useful information/interviews etc.

And did I mention they're running a short story competition? :)
May. 13th, 2009 11:56 am (UTC)
Neat! Thanks for sharing, Jon.
May. 13th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
No problem :)
May. 13th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
I loved Shadowbridge. Very impressive. He's quite the skilled storyteller, and I agree about his covers: they're gorgeous! Sounds like a nice man too :) Haven't started Lord Tophet yet...

That's a really good point, about the last paragraph/line of the page. I have been a slush reader in the past and there were times when I turned the page hoping it got better, but I needn't have bothered. Probably just wanting to be fair.

But you're right - and it's the same when you're reading a published book too, though I guess, once you've spent the money on it, you're more inclined to turn the page anyway? There've been some books that start out slow. But short stories, there's no room to waste is there.
May. 13th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
Just started reading it today. Looks good so far :)
May. 13th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
Good advice, thanks for sharing.
May. 13th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
My pleasure. Afer all, isn't this the whole point of blogging?
Jun. 9th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
Your blog
You've assembled quite a blog here, Jon. Glad I clicked through and read your articles. Hope this finds you well, Andrew Lenza.
Jun. 10th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
Re: Your blog
Andrew! Good to hear from you. I hope you and yours are fit and well (and back in you're house).
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

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