Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beginnings via Scholastic

So continuing on with the theme of first pages, I thought I'd share some of the most common beginnings I've seen while interning at Scholastic Press. I'm a writing intern, so I don't technically have to read submissions, but my office partner Zoe has been sharing her work with me :).

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 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 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 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


  1. What a great list. I'm tempted to see how many of them I could fit into a single first page, and then send it in for a critique. ;)

    Here's something I wonder: How often do editors have completely opposite opinions about a book?

  2. If Ben really writes this first page, I want to read it :) Jealous of all the free books and cool stuff you get to do, Kate!!

  3. Nice! I'm happy to say my latest has none of these beginnings (does start with action, but just for half a page). What you're doing at Scholastic is ultra fascinating. Keep it up! :)

  4. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you for sharing.

    The Write Soil

  5. I've read lamentation lists from editors before, but this up-to-date list of what is crossing the editorial desk, coupled with your perspective, is so helpful. Thanks, Kate!