Writing Tip: Make a Great First Impression

Let’s face it. Good impressions are important. Some people may claim it’s superficial and unfair. Isn’t it what’s inside that counts anyway? To a certain extent, yes. It is what is inside that counts. But to get to the inner core, there has to be a certain something that makes someone want to take a second look. And that’s reality, whether we’re talking about making friends, getting a job interview, or getting someone wowed by your manuscript.

And I cringe when I say this one, because I’m a rebel at heart. But to a certain extent, good impressions are all about conformity while at the same time allowing your individual stamp to shine through. Now all you rebellious independent beings out there, please don’t all grumble at me here. I’ll give you your moment to shine.

Think about it. Why do people go off and get themselves all dressed up before going to a party or attending an all important job interview or meeting? Why do people study up on a topic before meeting their professor or approaching someone to invest in their business? Why do people agonize on how to write their resume or query letter? Say it all with me…to make a good impression.

Now making a good impression doesn’t always clinch the deal. This is where the rebel lovers everywhere can have their moment of triumph…that’s why it’s important to show a little of yourself to make yourself memorable. Within reason, of course. I had to add that caveat just so you know I’m not talking about body parts or underwear here.

What is it that’s going to create a good impression in the beginning of your manuscript? I’ve got three of my top picks for what I think will help you create a strong beginning. Now keep in mind, this is my personal opinion, based on all the books I’ve read and enjoyed. By no means am I an expert in this sort of thing. If you like, you’re more than welcome to add other things in the comments section.

1. A great hook: For me, this could be through a great opening line or prologue, interesting characters, the setting, instant conflict or emotion that draws me in and makes me want to read on.

2. An Interesting and Compelling Voice: It doesn’t matter whether I love or hate the protagonist. That’s actually part of what will make me want to read on. What is their personality and their inner conflict, why are they likeable or not, what is the tone of their voice and does it grab my attention.

3. A Teaser: Some people have all the luck on understanding the nuances of proper teasing. Because it’s all about showing just a little, a little bit at a time, to give the reader an idea of what’s to come. Do it wrong, and the reader is just going to get frustrated and give up. But do it right, and you’re gonna have the reader hanging around until the very end.

Before you go off and study your favorite books or the beginning of your manuscript, what do you think makes a great first impression in the beginning of a novel?

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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