Novel Revision Tips: 5 Ways to Fix Your Opening Pages

Earlier this fall I decided to re-edit the first 50 pages of my novel about an accidental influencer who blows up her life when a video about her entitled man-child boyfriend goes viral.

I had gotten a bunch of form passes from agents. When another agent broke down where she was failing to connect and left me with helpful questions to consider, I finally knew what wasn’t working–and got ideas for how to fix it.

This sort of feedback is absolutely not required of agents but 100% appreciated by querying authors like me who keeps sending our work out into the void and hearing crickets or generic form passes.

I spent weeks revising those first 50 pages and sent them to a beta reader. She got fixated on one aspect of the character. That showed me I needed to go back to the drawing board and sew the seeds of this relationship dysfunction and the MC’s flawed belief

without relying on the particular setup I’d chosen. More thinking, more notes, and then I had to set the project aside and work on something else.

Time passed. The further away from the material I felt, the less I knew how to get back into it. Doubt started to set in: What if these edits didn’t help gatekeepers connect to the character? What if they still didn’t like her? Was the project stale? Was the agent who said ‘there’s too much influencer drama’ right?

The combo of inner critic and creative inertia left me unable to make changes I needed to make, even though I’d done 75% of the work by outlining the beats and scenes that needed to change.

Months passed and I just could not do it. But this week I found my way back into the story by flipping my focus from the big picture to the micro.

Rather than let my inner critic run rampant critiquing the entire manuscript, I started a fresh document for the new opening. I rewrote the first two chapters entirely, letting what was still working pull me back into the project so I could work from my notes and revise.

The combination of blank page + retyping gave me the fresh perspective I needed to overcome my unhelpful fears and move forward.

5 Novel Revision Tips for Stronger Opening Pages

When I’m revising a full novel, I always start by rereading it and making comprehensive change notes.

But for those “almost there” projects that might be getting close passes from agents, a full revision may not be necessary.

Here are 5 things to try when you want to tighten up those first pages…or first fifty, like I did!

1. Look for repeated words or ideas. Trim down unnecessary information to make your writing concise.

2. Replace overused words and with strong, precise words that evoke specificity.

3. Mix short and long sentences to create rhythm and maintain reader engagement.

4. Tighten endings and beginnings: Look only at the opening and closing paragraphs of chapters. Are they strong, clear and compelling? Do openings set the scene for what is to come? Do endings tug an emotional string or compel a reader to turn the page?

5. Pay attention to the visual aspect of your piece. Are paragraphs bloated walls of text? Can you create a single-sentence paragraph for emphasis?

Start small and let that little bit of action give you the momentum you need to get out of your head and onto the page.

Thanks for reading! It means a lot to me. 

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