What makes you turn the page of a book? Did the author manage to catch your attention so you had to keep reading to see what happened next? Or did it leave you wondering if you'd wasted your money and should've bought the title with the half nekked cowboy. Well...cowboy for me, maybe you prefer the firefighter or sweet couple holding a baby.
I am in no way an authority qualified in the craft of writing. However, I do love to read and learn about writing. If I can share anything that might help...you betcha. I would love to have an editor critique my blog posts if I could. LOL. So if you have any insight, please by all means--share.
The opening paragraph is our opportunity as authors to grab the attention of the reader. Whether it be an agent or editor, or the all important reader that buys the book. Of course it's important to catch the eye of a person that can get your book to the shelves, but with the availability of self-publishing there are those that bypass the agent/editor route. (Which isn't always a good thing.) But it is vital to reel in the reader so they'll stop thinking about the sink full of dishes needing to be washed, or that the family actually expects to eat dinner on a daily basis. Not that I advocate starving your family because I want you to read my book. But maybe keep sandwich meat, or pre-prepared casseroles, on hand for a quick meal so you don't have to put the book down for long. I personally love my slow-cooker. I've had a few nights where I took a book in the kitchen with me and read while sauce simmered or I was waiting for garlic bread to toast. Usually I can fold clothes or handle other household chores while cooking, but when I get a great book that grabs my attention...I tend to burn the bread. ;)
Is it the emotion that makes you keep going and wanting more? The element of surprise or the burning need to find out who the woman is and why she is rushing to the hospital? It's the beginning of the book and the chance to introduce the main character/s and premise of the story. It could be a killer opening sentence, several sentences, or a full paragraph. Whatever the length, it is one of the most important elements of a book in my opinion. It sets the tone. There have been several books I've read that I doubted would be worth my time to read but I kept pushing through because I hate to waste money. I also like to keep notes as to what it is that turned me off and use it as an example as what not to do.
The hardest part of writing for me is the first paragraph and where to start. I think it's a difficult task for several authors from what I've understood when talking craft. If the pacing is slow and you're trying too hard to cram character backstory in...then it's probable that the reader has already lost interest. But it's a balance to keep from cramming action down their throat and confuse the reader before they even have a chance to get hooked.
I believe that the balance evens out when the author can begin with a dilemma or the hint of what the conflict will be between the main characters. To give the reader a reason to cheer for the hero/heroine and root for a reward. A reason to care. And proofread, proofread, proofread. Especially if self-publishing is the projected path. I can't count how many books recently that I can instantly tell there wasn't an editor involved in the process. It's easier to swallow when the book is priced at $.99, but it kept the author from going into my must-buy list.
So what about you? Will you keep reading and give the author/story a second chance?