In my last post, I tried to give a general picture of what the editors at Electric Spec were looking for, but I also promised something more specific. Today, I'd like to talk about first paragraphs. I've heard that some agents and editors often reject a piece after reading only the first paragraph. That used to shock me, but no so much anymore. Why? Most of the time, I have a pretty good idea that I'm going to say "no" to a story after the first paragraph or so.
This is not because the first paragraph has to have a "hook" (although a hook can be a big help), but rather it is the author's first chance to exhibit his or her facility with language and story telling. If an author has an awkwardly worded sentence in the first paragraph, then, chances are, I'll find more and more as I go along. Similarly, if I'm lost about the basics of the story after the first paragraph (i.e. who is the protagonist, where is the action taking place, what is the tone of the piece), I'm likely to become even more lost by page 12 (if I make it that far).
If our blog readers would like, I think I and my fellow editors would be willing to look at the first paragraph of a story from a brave volunteer and tell you and the rest of the blogosphere our reactions. Since our blog is pretty new, we might have to wait until we have more readers that know about this opportunity, but, if you're lurking out there and would like to give it a try, let me know.