Monday, April 9, 2012

The Great Intro Fakeout: Further Musings on Queries & Openings

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who weighed in on my post about whether or not queries get their due in an agent's inbox.

The consensus from last Monday's post seemed to be that sometimes, you're going to get rejected no matter what you've done right - and that other people may not, even when they've made silly mistakes.

Still, I've been wondering if maybe MY problem is not my query, but my opening.

I mentioned in that last post that almost all of my requests have come from pitch contests. And here's the thing:

The opening I use for contests is not the actual opening of my manuscript.

My "contest opening" is actually an excerpt from page 4 of the ms. I didn't feel my real opening was "grabbing" enough for competitions. And wouldn't you know, as soon as I started using Opening 2.0, I started getting requests.

And somehow... it's never occurred to me until now that maybe my fake opening should be my real opening.

This weekend, an agent who is currently closed to queries e-mailed me saying she'd seen my (fake) opening posted in a contest and would like to see my first 10 pages. Naturally, I was thrilled to have an agent stalking - er - seeking me out, and sent the pages right off - with the real opening. But I haven't heard back, and now I'm wondering if that was a mistake.

The reason I've kept my real opening is because I think it sets up the scene and the characters and the action a lot better than the portion I use in contests, which jumps into the action almost immediately.

But to reference my last post again, remember how I'd bitched about the badly written query getting requests up the wazoo in a certain contest? I wondered if the agents had even read the query. And now I'm realizing... they very well might not have. Maybe they skipped right over the query, and read the intro.

And maybe that's what they're doing when they read the queries in their inbox, too. Hmmm....

So, give me your honest opinion, peeps. Should I make my fake opening my real opening? Or does it really not matter, and I'm desperately grasping at straws here?


  1. I used to have a prologue instead of a real opening and I've really been much happier since I cut it.

    Sneaking the details back in wasn't easy, but I really think my MS is stronger now because I did it.

    In my editing experience is that--if you think it's weak, it probably is. Or ask yourself. Can you live with the results if you don't change it and you're wrong?

  2. Well, at this point, it can't hurt to try with a batch of ten, right?

    I don't know. I think your original open is fine, but I think it's kind of like the query - subjective even in the sense of HOW agents read. Some might put down if the first paragraph doesn't grab them (for whatever reason) and others might read the whole ten to see what the overall feeling is. It's so frustrating that you can't know...

    I've just been told that my opening is too much telling. But the last version got the feedback that it was confusing. It's impossible to please everyone. Just gotta hope you hit the right agent with the right opening at the right time.


  3. I'm with L on this one. You never know which way an agent is gonna go with it, which is extremely frustrating. I'd try it out with a new batch of queries. :\ And I'm almost completely uninterested in online public critique anymore. It didn't help my query letter, and it certainly hasn't helped my opening. Like, if an agent said something, THEN I'd listen, but...

    You could definitely try the fake opening with a few queries. It couldn't hurt.

  4. That's awesome about the agent!! I agree with everyone--it's subjective. However, as subjective as querying is, if something's getting results where something else didn't, it's not *just* coincidence. Part of it's luck, part of it's coincidence/subjectivity, but that only goes so far. I'd say this is a good indication that you should try your contest opening in queries. Every agent is different, but this seems like it kind of IS some agents telling you they like that one better, you know?

  5. If you think your story doesn't get interesting until page four, then chances are good agents won't give you even that much of a chance to agree. They won't read past the first page.

    Try reworking your chapter and start at page four, then send out some queries and see what happens.

  6. I think it's a pretty good indication that you used an opening from page 4 because your real opening wasn't grabbing enough. If you think so, how much more so will your readers think so?

    I say go with your gut instinct and make your fake opening your real one (even though it'll probably hurt your writer's muse a little to pull the "build up").

  7. Yay for the request! Sounds to me like you should start with page 4. I've heard that some agents read pages first, then go back and check the query if they like the writing.

  8. if you were getting good feedback on the "fake" opening but not so much with the "real" opening, I think that's probably an example that you don't need the "real" opening. the same goes with prologues. A lot of people ask "should I query with my prologue (although agents hate them?) or my first chapter?" the question's already been answered: if you're scared the prologue won't be enough to hook the agent and you COULD FEASIBLY start with the first chapter, it means you probably don't even need the prologue in the first place. it's one of those: if you have to ask, you already have the answer.

    I think (even if my opinion is meaningless!) you should at least try revising to start with your "fake" opening and try to book the lost details of your "real" opening somewhere else. see if it works. see if you even like it. if you don't like it, then there's your answer :)