1) As I was doing my blogging rounds, I started to come across a lot of interesting links about first chapters, lines, and pages. As usual, the thing that I wasn't supposed to be doing? Yeah, that's what I was doing.
According to pretty much every article I read, (and I think there were about 5), you shouldn't start your story explaining your setting, you should start it off with the character performing some sort of action. Whether your character is having a conversation, going for a drive, hiding a dead body, whatever, starting with action will make readers feel like they are a part of it and will make them want to read on to see the action through. (Which of course will be followed by more amazing, mindblowing prose.)
Because my first 3 pages were more setting focused and then the action started happening, I cut the first three pages and pasted them in another amazingly super fitting spot. My story is so much more interesting now. Seriously, if you are reading your first few pages and find they're about 5% action and 95% description. Change it. You might find your descriptions fascinating, but your new readers won't. They'll get bored, fall asleep, and drool all over your lovely novel before putting it aside to read something that keeps moving.
I also like to think about it this way: You know when you have 5 minutes of free time and your best buddy wants to tell you some very important anecdote about some irritating Starbucks barista and she spends the first 3 minutes setting you up for the confrontation and you just want her to get there already?! Yeah, that's how the reader feels about your first chapter.
For an article about agents pet peeves regarding first chapters visit: 8 Ways to Write a 5 Star Chapter 1 (and while you're at it, go to http://www.writersdigest.com/ to subscribe to the e-newsletter I got it from.)
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can trust writers. Rather than selling us something, they are exploring
something; rather than dominating us, they are opening