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Thursday, April 27, 2017

First Page: Level—Expert

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

The novel’s first page is a sacred contract with the reader. The fine print is written between the lines. This is my best writingcontinue if you want more.
I’ve read 25 books already this year, and frankly, the self-published novels are getting this wrong.

Take great pains to craft the first words carefully, because the reader will fling the book aside if she can’t figure out what the book’s about.

Surely, by now, you know everything there is to writing a first page, but it’s always good to keep the rules fresh.

Level: Beginner

—Prepare to write and rewrite the beginning at least one dozen times.
—Page one is flashback hell. Make page one heaven by throwing the reader into the scene immediately.
—No writing tricks. The first page must be as basic and clear as possible. Don’t give readers resistance as they read.
—Don’t start with dialogue.
—No tension? No reason to keep reading. Tension MUST be present. (Inciting Incident)
—Don’t make the reader plow through 8 pages until they reach their first antecedent. Use names.
—Don’t start with weather.

Level: Publishable (all of Beginner plus the following—)

—The scene should be set in one or two sentences, with clear language.
—Reader must have a solid idea of the world they’ve entered.
—Show, don’t tell.
—Introduce the main character and their strongest character trait.
—Introduce the main character’s basic need or want.
—Who cares about the past? No one. Start with the main story immediately.
—Be precise, and avoid adverbs and adjectives.
—Give hints at the momentous troubles ahead.

Level: Expert (the previous, and—)

—Is your first sentence sublime and unique? —Book thesis. Ask the moral question that will be answered in the last page.
—Evoke all five or six senses.
—Create an emotional connection with the character by making the reader relate to the character’s problem.
—Can you show how the main character is unique from any other in the world?
—The tone should be clear—Funny? Dark? Romantic?
—Can the first page stand alone as a short story?


First Page: Level—Expert by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

The novel’s first page is a sacred contract with the reader.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

It’s always good to keep the rules fresh.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

Title Photo Copyright: palabra / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. in my last book, the opening sentence was, "I hate you and I wish you was dead." (and yes, i know the grammar is wrong, that's intentional) I then give some of the scene (she's spying on her sister) and the setting (Victorian)- maybe it actually falls into the top category???

  2. Excellent advice! Printing this out and putting it where I can see it!


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