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.
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.