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Keep these points in mind to include in your novel's first three pages:
1. Start with an important action. Unpublished writers do not have the luxury of building up to a conflict or other main event. Something must happen right away to hook the reader (here, the reader always means the editor or agent.)
2. Develop conflict. Things need to be stressful. If life is too easy for your characters, you will not hold the readers' attention.
3. Make promises--and keep them. Romance readers want romance; mystery readers expect a good puzzle, adventure lovers expect fast-paced action. Hint at things to come, then deliver. Everything must be resolved by the end of your novel, including the few little asides you might have introduced along the way. The lost dog found its home; the red herring was explained away; the secondary character's role was revealed, etc.
4. Introduce or foreshadow your main characters. Who the star(s) of your story is should be clear from the start. This also goes hand in hand with point of view. Decide before you start writing what viewpoint you will be using--first person, limited third person, multi-viewpoint, omniscient.
5. Develop a main character your reader can identify with, worry about, and root for. Let the reader know who the good guys are--and the bad guys.
6. Let the reader know up front what is at stake. What's the conflict, what stands to be lost?
7. Establish the setting. Let the reader know where we are, and when.
8. The beginning must foreshadow the conclusion. Your story is not a random series of events. All activities are carefully linked together. All plot elements must intertwine with one another. And you must know the ending of your novel before you begin it.
9. Set the pace. To some extent, the genre will dictate that for you. Historical romances are more leisurely, filled with description and flowery language; mysteries must go faster.
10. Don't digress. Everything mentioned in your book must have a reason for being there. If it doesn't advance the story line, it shouldn't be in your book. This includes dialogue for dialogue's sake, motives that are weak, description of irrelevant items or scenery, gratuitous red herrings, and plot twists that don't ultimately tie in.
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