What it says in the header, for all you budding novelists out there. This is some pretty useful stuff.
Here are some of the common reasons panelists stopped reading.
1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn’t really inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you’re writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.
2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.
3. Trying too hard: Sometimes it seemed like a writer was using big words or flowery prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. In several cases, the writer used big words incorrectly. Awkward or forced imagery was also a turnoff. At one point, the panelists raised their hands when a character’s eyes were described as “little lubricated balls moving back and forth.”
4. TMI (Too Much Information): Overly detailed description of bodily functions or medical examinations had the panelists begging for mercy.
5. Clichés: “The buildings were ramrod straight.” “The morning air was raw.” “Character X blossomed into Y.” “A young woman looks into the mirror and tells us what she sees.” Clichés are hard to avoid, but when you revise, go through and try to remove them.
6. Loss of Focus: Some manuscripts didn’t have a clear narrative and hopped disjointedly from one theme to the next.
7. Unrealistic internal narrative: Make sure a character’s internal narrative—what the character is thinking or feeling—matches up with reality. For example, you wouldn’t want a long eloquent narration of what getting strangled feels like—the character would be too busy gasping for breath and passing out. Also, avoid having the character think about things just for the sake of letting the reader know about them.
Tough, isn’t it? Obviously you should tweak all of these for the genre in which you’re writing. I’d guess that genre writers are particularly guilty of number 4, what with having the terribly difficult task of Explaining Weird Things.
You’ve probably only got the first page to really hook agents and publishers. Probably only the first paragraph, in reality – that and your synopsis. I’d love to give some better advice, but the whole process is so subjective, and I hate preaching about how to write. Do whatever works for you.