|At MWG conference book signing|
In the slushpile readings, MWG president Deb Marshall read from the first page of works attendees submitted to a panel of agents and editors (and an audience of conference goers). The agents/editors were asked to explain how they would react if the story appeared in their slushpile. Each raised her hand at the point she would've quit reading. When a majority had "quit," they discussed why. A similar scenario occurred in one of the breakout sessions with emedia and writing guru Jane Friedman, where I got feedback on the first page of my YA fantasy's (soon-to-be-gone) prologue. Only a few of the submissions in either of these readings made it very far, and mine didn't get past the first sentence. (Sigh.) My roller coaster went into a big dip.
Why? In my case, I tried to provide too much information too soon, and strange names made it even more confusing: "The Elders' warning echoed in One Reed's mind as the girl entered the museum's Music Room: Respect your body's wisdom."
Some other common problems with first pages included: over explaining, too much detail, interior monologue, flashbacks, a crisis without a unique hook, dialogue without context, info dump, character dump (have less than four), back story, and too many adverbs/adjectives.
The first night ended with a nightcap session--you could visit informally with the presenters, who held court in casual groupings in the hotel's hallways and lounges. Many had only one or two people in their group, but Curtis Brown agent Sarah LaPolla's query critique group blocked the hallway near the front desk. I only attended part of that crowded session, but saw the writers' reactions run the gamut. Some had peaks--afterward, one of the participants said his query got the agent's interest and set him up for a successful pitch session the next day--but many had dips.
The question is, what do you do with those dips? I think another of the conference attendees has the right idea. In a post-conference Facebook post, he said:
Thank you for reading and please visit me at www.twfendley.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @twfendley.