I am thrilled to to have an essay on Art Taylor’s blog, The First Two Pages, today!
One of America’s leading crime fiction writers, Art Taylor has reaped a host of awards: an Edgar in 2019; an Anthony in 2015, Agatha awards in 2014, 2015 and 2017; Macavity awards in 2014 and 2017; and three Derringer awards. He’s also a book critic, and a professor of English at George Mason University in Virginia.
Art took over B.K. Stevens’ outstanding weekly blog, The First Two Pages, after her death in August 2017. It features craft essays by writers, analyzing the opening pages of their published stories and novels.
I met Art at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto. He had read my story, “The Queen-Size Bed,” in the conference’s anthology, Passport to Murder, and suggested that I contact him about writing a post for The First Two Pages when a new novel was released. When the writers’ collective I belong to, the Mesdames of Mayhem, released its fourth crime fiction anthology, In the Key of 13, last fall, I did just that.
Art agreed to look at the collection, with the view to having a few writers post essays on their work in it. I mailed him the anthology, and he selected three stories and asked their authors to write about the decisions they made in creating their opening pages, and what made these pages work. My story, “Farewell to the King,” was one of the three stories he chose.
You can check out my essay about it here. Another post by Sylvia Warsh will run next week, on March 31, and Lynne Murphy’s essay will appear on The First Two Pages on April 7.
Effective opening pages, as Art noted in the Guidelines he prepared for writers preparing posts for The First Two Pages, are what make busy literary agents and acquisition editors keep reading. I do a First Page workshop from time to at libraries in my community and slightly further afield, critiquing the first page of participants’ stories and novels. The sad truth is that no matter how great a story or a novel is as a whole, if its first page (or two) doesn’t grab an agent or an editor, it will likely be returned to the slush pile. And opening pages need to hold readers who are flipping through books in bookstores, and make them want to read more.
I strongly suggest taking a look at The First Two Pages blog every Tuesday, for tips on making opening pages work.