Are your first 10 pages ready for their close-up?

take (noun): a scene or sequence of sound or vision photographed or recorded continuously at one time

If your book was a movie, the director would focus on close-up shots, reaction shots and the action – essential features that “tell” the story.

Capturing the moment in storytelling rarely happens in one take no matter how good the actors are. The perfect scene might demand 100+ takes in order to capture the actor’s best performance.

Writing is no different to movie making: it takes more than one attempt to create magic. It also involves close attention to detail: all is illuminated under the spotlight.

How to prepare the first 10 pages for close inspection:

1. Make decisions

  • Decisiveness in writing is a great gift. You want to get the words right but you also need to know when to stop rewriting and move on.
  • Even the movie director who demands 100 takes needs to make a decision and wrap up the scene at some point.

2. Have a game plan

  • Write down a detailed plan for the first 10 pages including dialogue and descriptions.
  • You are not just writing the scenes, you are directing them: action and reactions need to be relevant and realistic.

3. Go for variations on a theme

  • If you do rewrite the first 10 pages, make them different. There is no point cautiously “tinkering” with the words, break them up and make a fresh start.
  • Explore a new introduction, then compare to the original draft. You might like how you wrote it first time around or you might love the 12th rewrite more.

4. Relax into the writing

  • Rehearse a couple of scenes before you commit them to the computer screen. Actors are allowed time to “settle” into the role before the cameras roll; the characters in your book should too.
  • Write a couple of scenes that are not imperative to plot. Get to know the people in your book. Readers are going to be looking at them very closely.

5. Encourage best character performance

  • In order to bring out the best performance in your character, you need to give them great dialogue to work with. Let them ad-lib when a scene sounds too forced.
  • Boring, repetitive dialogue will turn the reader off.

6. Don’t waste time

  • If the first 10 pages aren’t working, take a break. Failure to wrap up the first 10 pages could be a sign that the plot and characterisation is off point. Write the ending instead.
  • You should know how the book ends even before the first sentence is in place.


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