Every time you send a query, you hope that the agent or editor is going to read your first page–and the next one and the next one. To help writers with this, many conferences do a first page workshop. Some structure it like a Gong Show/American Idol kind of format where the publishing pros raise a hand where they’d stop reading and then explain why. Others read that whole page and then analyze, or rework it. There’s great value in all of these, and to have a chance at being part of one, consider such conferences as Northern Colorado Writers or New England Crime Bake.

But what am I looking for on that first page? A connection with a character. A gripping plot element. A vivid setting, Something that makes me want more. I was lucky enough to find that at a recent conference, and am dying to see if the rest of the manuscript is as compelling. It started right in the thick of things, with someone stumbling upon a body and then running from a bear. You could picture the setting, but the writer didn’t spend extra words on describing it. It was tight and precise and everyone at the table was on the edge of their seats. Great stuff.

What didn’t he do? He didn’t use up space with too much exposition. Or insert quotes at the chapter open that don’t advance the action. He didn’t write a prologue not connected to the action. You only get one chance to wow a reader from the get-go, and he did pull that off.