The First Page


Woodrow Wilson

Reprinted from "The Great Blue Beacon" June 2002

The Great Blue Beacon is an international newsletter for writers of all genres and skill levels. The newsletter is written in an intimate, one-on-one style. Each issue contains informative and useful items for writers. Recent topics have included judging contests, overcoming writer's block, the genre of essay writing, dealing with an agent, the joy of self-publishing, international syndication, and writing for free. For more information, contact editor Andy Byers.



"… and the first shall be last," it’s almost a Commandment. Write the first page, then write the rest of the book. Finally, go back and write the first page that belongs in front of all you wrote since you first saw your first page.

The first page is the bait disguising the hook for the rest of the book. Beware, the hook is lurking there behind the author’s bare soul in the opening lines.

If the first page starts out well the book is likely to get better. He invited us to "Call me Ishmael," and we did while the pages turned themselves. When he promised, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times," we knew dove into interesting times ahead. And who can forget the secret initiation of the literate, "See Dick. See Jane. See Spot," making it official that we could read?

If it starts out poorly, it’s a long way to the other end of the book. Few remember the last page of a book that started out badly; only the tolerant ever turned to page two voluntarily. Only gifts from small precious people and assignments should drive you on. Joyce’s moocow coming down the road introduced a head I didn’t care to get inside of. That launched the longest trek through the shortest book.

Promise the world on page one, then deliver and someone might read it. "On the first day, He made heaven and earth," sold a lot of books, you know.