Writing Great Openings for Young Adult or Middle Grade Novels

Writing Great Openings for Young Adult or Middle Grade Novels

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  • You are a writer currently composing a novel who wants to make sure their work gets read
  • You are a writer who has been rejected by agents and editors, and want to evaluate why their novel didn't make the cut
  • You are a writer who is getting page requests from agents, but falling short after that point


The opening of your novel sets the stage for everything you want to accomplish. You only have one chance to establish a memorable voice and get readers to follow your characters into your story. Writing YA or MG presents the additional challenge of an audience of discriminating, impatient readers who won't wait until page 40 for your book to get good.

Starting with the first sentence, it's crucial to hook your reader immediately, whether that reader is an agent, editor, or teen reader. The opening pages of your book are prime real estate for building a strong voice, believable characters, and a plot that readers will want to follow through to the end.

In this presentation, instructor and literary agent Carlie Webber shows you how to catch a reader's eye with your first sentences and pages. After sharing her own best practices, Carlie uses opening pages from published books to show you the dos and don'ts of opening your YA or MG novel (including: never start with your main character getting out of bed), and the common mistakes that stop agents from reading beyond your first page.


  • Why it's important to hook the reader from the first sentence
  • Why most prologues don't work
  • Common mistakes of first sentences and first pages
  • Overused beginnings and clich√©s that can drag down a work
  • How to balance action and character development in your opening
  • How to hone the compelling details of your initial story set up
  • How writing awesome first pages is simpler than you think


Carlie Webber refused to major in English in college because no one would let her read Stephen King or R.L. Stine for class. After college, she obtained a Master of Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a YA librarian and professional book reviewer for publications including KIRKUS REVIEWS. Wishing to explore her interest in the business side of publishing, she enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Course. After working for the Publish or Perish Agency/New England Publishing Associates and Jane Rotrosen Agency, she has established her own agency, CK Webber Associates. In addition to YA and MG, she is seeking mystery, thriller, suspense, science fiction, romance, contemporary fiction, and fantasy. Follow her on Twitter: @carliebeth

NOTE: Writer's Digest does not offer refunds for OnDemand Webinars. All sales are final. OnDemand Webinars do NOT include a critique.

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