1. The info dump. This one's a no-brainer, but we still get it quite a lot...the author wants us to know all about the character and his/her world before the story gets started.
2. Action scene. I know what you're thinking...an action scene is good, right? Sometimes. But if you've got a rip-roaring (spelling?) sword fight that lasts five pages, and the reader still doesn't have any idea who the character is, then they aren't going to care.
3. Lamentations about a dystopian government-gone-wrong.
4. Conversation between a character and his/her mother. No idea why this one is popular...
5. "It was a normal day." We don't care about normal days, we care about the abnormal ones.
6. A confusing, "mysterious" conversation between two characters that's supposed to draw the reader in and leave them with questions....however, many of these beginnings are so ambiguous the reader can't ground himself or herself in the story.
7. Evocative, detailed descriptions. They're great, but not as a first paragraph.
8. Girl sees hot guy from across the room/school yard/lawn/space station. Not necessarily a bad beginning, but it's one we see quite often.
9. Character in the midst of getting beat up. Most writers seem to use this in an attempt to establish their MC as an outcast or "different."
10. Stereotypical high school settings. I have to admit, this one bugs....as a recent high school graduate I can attest to the fact that modern high school is so not what it's like in the movies. In my experience, and in the experience of my friends, high school is much more fluid than "popular" kids and "non-popular" kids. Also, us teenagers aren't as mean to one another as people seem to think we are.
So there you have it....some common beginnings. I picked up several ARCs today (Matt Kirby's ICEFALL, Jennifer Nielsen's THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic's leading title for their Spring 2012 list)(I just did parentheses inside parentheses....is that even allowed?)) because my editor Jody came up to me and said, "Do you want any Scholastic books? Because there are a bunch lying around and I could probably get you any of the ones you ask for." How awesome is that? I also discovered a set of huge bins marked "free books," so I've been going crazy ever since yesterday. It's pretty awesome.
Anyway, I'll post tomorrow with more Scholastic news....including a chance for all of you to ask questions, which I in turn will pose to some of the Scholastic editors. Have you been wondering about publishing? Marketing? Acquisitions meetings? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to get y'all some answers!
P.S. First page critiques are open! I know it's hard to put work out there, but having an extra pair or two (or ten) of eyes never hurts! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.