There’s one page that I revise more than any other, whether it’s a short story or a novel. Page 1.
As my fabulous agents says, the first page sells the book, the last page sells the next book. The reason should be obvious – the first page is the hook. It’s literally the first page enticing a reader to turn to the next one. Unless you’re like me and you open books to random pages but that’s a topic for another day.
I don’t have a clue how many times I revised the first page on my last manuscript. It became dangerously close to an obsession. Regardless of where I was in the draft and revisions, I kept a printed copy of the first page with me to tinker with the first sentence on my morning train to work.
You may think it’s because of my agent’s favorite saying that I’m like this. It actually started years earlier. My local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, has a section of its Sunday edition dedicated to books. Included is a little column inch at the bottom of one of the pages that they call “Grabbers.” It’s a short list of opening sentences. I’ve read the Grabbers since high school. I’ve wanted one of my first sentences to be included as a Grabber ever since.
I’m working on the first draft of a new book right now. I haven’t finished the first chapter yet but I’ve rewritten the first page four times and the opening sentence twice. That’s just the beginning.