Focus on the First Five Pages - ONE-ON-ONE
Are you ready to submit your work to an agent or publisher? Want to ensure your work has the best chance to impress? Then you'd better make sure your first few pages "sing". We all know that publishing professionals receive thousands of submissions each year and they're often so busy that if your work fails to grab them in that first page or two, they won't persist past that. Sending your work out into the world is a harrowing experience, but if you get those first five pages right, it has a far better chance of success.
The object of this course is to get those first five pages in top shape. My years of mentoring at the TAFE and university level have shown me the best way to improve written work is to focus on the individual writer. Group activities are great, but individual feedback is for serious writers. You'll learn not only how to improve your first pages, but will learn lessons applicable to your whole manuscript.
This course starts with a technical lesson on what the writer needs to do in the first five pages. The macro elements concentrate on issues such as character, genre, setting, time period, introductory hook, introducing the romance, posing the story question and whether to include a prologue or not. The micro aspects teach elements of style to polish your work until it's shiny-bright.
You'll undertake one lesson per week, submit exercises for individual feedback and, at the end, you'll submit your first five pages for an in-depth critique on what you're doing well and what could use some work.
Once your first five are as focused, impressive and as unput-downable as can be, they're ready for release into the publishing domain...
PART 1: The big picture
1. Hook—what is a hook, and have you included one to make your reader desperate to continue reading your story and find out what happens next?
2. Where to start—what is in medias res, and how much set-up should you include?
3. To prologue or not to prologue?—a discussion of the pros and cons of prologues, what a prologue should accomplish. Even if you have a prologue, should you include it in your opening pages submission?
4. Characters—what makes the reader connect with and want to spend time with your protagonist/s? Have you captured your reader from the get-go?
5. Conflict—what conflict/s is your character going to face in your story? This should be clear in those opening pages and also go some way to establishing genre.
6. Love interest—if you're writing romance, how should you handle this in the opening? When do you either make it clear this is a romance or have the hero and heroine meet?
7. Setting, time period, and world building—immerse your reader in the world of your story in your first few pages.
PART 2: Polishing the craft of writing
1. Point-of-view, Part 1—the first question a writer must answer before writing the first word.
2. Point-of-view, Part 2—Who is telling the story, and whose story is it?
3. Point-of-view, Part 3—In whose skin is the reader experiencing the scene?
4. Do you filter your fiction?—What is a filter, and why is it bad?
5. Writing in 3-D: dialogue—Let your readers hear realistic conversations between realistic characters.
6. Writing in 3-D: description—Let your readers see your characters and setting.
7. Writing in 3-D: despair—Let your readers feel what your characters feel.
8. Internal vs. external emotion—Dig deeper into your characters emotions and bring the readers deeper into your characters.
9. Final words—10 lessons I’ve learned about writing.
There are four lessons with multiple exercises in each, which are to be submitted to me for feedback. The major submission is the first five pages at the end of lesson four. Participants will receive a critique and report on their first five and another opportunity to resubmit their first five following this feedback for a final assessment. Students should expect to put in 10-20 hours of work and be ready to re-work their drafts. The focus is on in-depth feedback for the individual, which is why one-on-one works best for this course.
The course is aimed at writers with a work in progress. In 2020, I've had some students who have a completed manuscript and want to really polish their opening pages, but I've also had those who've just started on a story. Provided there is some work in progress, this course can benefit the student as the lessons and techniques are applicable across the whole of a work.
10-20 hours. Four weeks is ideal, however, it is intensive and some students need longer. I'm happy to negotiate with students who need more than four weeks to complete the course.
I provide feedback on comments on the first three weeks of assignments. Often, this is about assisting the student to find their focus and where their story should start. So, in addition to my comments on homework, I often pose questions back to the student and will have email exchanges about this. These preparatory exercises assist me to understand what the student intends to achieve and whether this comes across in their work and how they could do things differently. After this initial exchange, students will often rework their opening pages and send me their draft. I provide an in-depth critique (often 2-3 hours input from me on this part alone) and then invite the student to review and resubmit for a final critique.
Samantha Bond is a reformed corporate lawyer, now freelance writer and public servant. Her creative work has been published in numerous national literary journals, anthologies and magazines. She's also been a freelance reviewer and writer for Indaily and Glam Adelaide since 2008, and is kept ultra-busy during Adelaide's "Mad March" Fringe and Festival season.
Samantha has mentored students in the Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing, as well as at Flinders University, has taught classes at her local community centre for years, and online for RW Australia, RW America and Savvy Authors. She is super proud that some of her students have gone on to achieve publishing deals with major publishers.
Samantha's passion (besides chocolate, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and her children) is creative writing and teaching others the craft of writing. She loves books containing heartbreaking and humorous characters, a plot that keeps her guessing right till the end and lots of lovely romance.
Course Dates (courses can be extended up to 6 weeks):
- 1st - 28th February 2021
- 1st - 31st March 2021
- 1st - 30th April 2021
- 1st - 31st May 2021
- 1st - 30th June 2021
- 1st - 31st July 2021
- 1st - 30th September 2021
- 1st - 31st October 2021
- 1st - 30th November 2021
Cost: RWA-Member – $165.00 Non RWA-Member – $198.00
* Please note, there is a $0.50 Trybooking fee at checkout.
Venue: Online - RWA Moodle Platform
Participants will receive a log in 2 days prior to course commencement
(Participants will be notified of access/login details via email from the RWA Academy Registrar 2 days prior to the commencement of the course)
RWA Academy Courses PO Box Q740 Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230
Contact Details: Claudine Tinellis RWA Academy Registrar email@example.com