With many literary agents wanting only the first 5-10 pages with a query, those opening pages are crucial to readers and traditional publishing alike. Yet as a critical reader, the main advice I’ve given is to delete or re-write whole paragraphs. To help you reflect upon and edit, or plan and write your opening pages in a clear and engaging way, I’ll unpack 9 reflective questions.
Critique partner and beta reader feedback can be gold, but as editing is a complex task, it can be difficult to decide what exactly you’d like critical readers to comment on, especially in the crucial first chapter. The reflective questions in this post will help guide critical reader feedback (and in some cases self-editing), giving you insight into how engaging, well paced and easy or difficult to follow unfamiliar readers found your opening chapter.
You’ve written your novel. You’ve revised it multiple times. Now you know it so well that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Your mind can fill gaps, plot and character arc holes big enough to park cars (or at least bicycles) in. When you re-read your novel, your subconscious is re-wording convoluted sentences that could tie poor reader up in knots and your authorial bias is skipping over sentences/ paragraphs/ entire scenes which may put readers to sleep. Now you need critical reader feedback, ideally from writers with different strengths and experience to yours, to help develop your knowledge and hone your craft. If you can’t afford an editor, critical reader feedback is your best chance of avoiding premature querying/ publishing. So where do you find effective critical readers?