Your Story's First Pages: How to Engage Your Reader

Your Story's First Pages: How to Engage Your Reader

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  • You are currently composing a novel or a memoir and want to make sure your work gets read
  • You have been rejected by agents and editors, and want to evaluate why your novel didn't make the cut
  • You are getting page requests from agents, but falling short after that point
  • Anyone with non-novel publishing credits considering making the jump to fiction writing


When you pick up a book at the bookstore (or click the ‘first look' button online), you normally read/skim the first few pages before making the decision to purchase the title. There is no ‘let's skip to page 70 and see how good it is!' moment. The first pages of your novel or memoir are critical! After all, your goal is to engage your reader into the story long enough to keep them hooked until the very last page. Whether the reader is an agent, editor or consumer, well-written first pages are essential to every story.

In this presentation, instructor and literary agent Kathleen Ortiz will show you how to catch a reader's eye with your first sentences and pages. After sharing her own best principles, Kathleen will review first pages from published books to show you the dos and don'ts of opening your novel/memoir (including: never start with your main character getting out of bed or looking in a mirror), and the common mistakes that drive agents crazy and stop them from reading the rest of your work.


  • Why it's important to hook the reader from not only the first page, but also the first sentence
  • Why she hates prologues with the passion (and how she has fallen for some books that use them)
  • Common mistakes of first sentences and first pages
  • Overused beginnings and clich√©s that make her and other agents roll their eyes
  • How writing awesome first pages is easier than you think


Kathleen Ortiz is the Director of Subsidiary Rights, handling audio, translation and digital rights for New Leaf Literary & Media and Red Tree Literary. She is an active member of AAR.

Kathleen has an intimate list of clients and is actively seeking to sign more. She is interested in all genres of YA but is especially interested in a story set within another culture (think YA version of Memoir of a Geisha or Blood Diamond) or a smart, tech-oriented thriller. She is also looking for smart and funny women's fiction, specifically geared toward women in their 20s and 30s.

She's looking to grow her non-fiction list and is interested in anything with a technology, pop-culture, entertainment or women's issues angle. Something different from what's already out there -- topics better suited for magazine articles (i.e. "how to find the perfect guy" or "100 ways to be an awesome teen") aren't for her. You must have a strong platform or be considered an expert in your field.

You can find her online at or on Twitter @KOrtizzle.

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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