First Twenty-Five Pages and a Critique!

08 Feb

I’m going to start off with a disclaimer. This post is for writers pursuing publication. If you write for a hobby, that’s awesome. You can do whatever you like. If you’re writing for publication, there are some things you may want to consider in order to enhance your chances of landing that agent and book deal. This isn’t meant to stifle anyone’s creativity; this is strictly guidance. Take it if you think it’s useful, but discard it if you think it’s not. Either way, I hope it gets you thinking about your story, which is always a good thing.

The first twenty-five pages of a story are extremely important. A writer has to hook the reader, introduce the conflict, and move an entire story and plot forward. This is no easy task. Because of the amount of queries agents and editors receive, they are only able to read a sample to see if they’re interested. Maybe they’ll read the first chapter, two chapters, twenty-five pages? It depends. Then based on those pages, they’ll either request more pages or pass. Hopefully the magnitude of the first twenty-five pages has sunk in.

One of my go to books on beginnings is Hooked by Les Edgerton. Edgerton say, “An opening scene has ten core components: (1) the inciting incident; (2) the story-worthy problem; (3) the initial surface problem; (4) the setup; (5) backstory; (6) a stellar opening sentence; (7) body language; (8) character; (9) setting; and (10) foreshadowing,” (page 23).

If you’re newly starting out, and you want to look for some examples, go to the bookstore and look at current releases—I’m talking books released in the last one to three years. Read over the first thirty pages of books in the genre you’re interested in writing. The reason I say to look at current books for reference is because the publishing industry is forever changing. What was acceptable ten (even five) years ago may not be acceptable today. Of course you can take books that are wildly successful that don’t have these things in the first twenty-five, but you can’t always take the exception as an example for the norm.

One of the most important parts of the beginning is the inciting incident. The inciting incident is the action that pushes the story forward. I’ve heard some industry professionals say they’d like for this to happen anywhere from the first seven pages to the first twenty-five. It’s important to understand what the inciting incident of a story is. It doesn’t always have to be a car wreck or a murder (although it very well could be). But it can be subtler than that. I know I said you shouldn’t use exceptions as examples for the norm, but since the wildly successful books are the ones most people are familiar with, I’m going to use two big name books as examples. Harry Potter. The inciting incident in Harry Potter is when the first letter to Hogwarts is delivered to Harry. This happens on page thirty-four. That’s not far off from the first thirty pages. Let’s look at another one. The Hunger Games. The inciting incident of this story is on page twenty, when Primrose Everdeen’s name is chosen during the reaping. It’s important for the reader to care about the characters and to be emotionally invested in them enough to care about what happens to them, so when you introduce the inciting incident, the reader will follow your character on their journey.

I could talk about beginnings for a very long time. This is just skimming the surface. Hopefully it entices you to go research and read more to improve your craft.

In honor of our one year anniversary at Hugs and Chocolate, and for our February workshops, I’m offering a twenty-five page critique to one of the followers. All you have to do is follow the blog and leave a comment and make sure to include your email address. The winner will be chosen using, and they will be notified via email. The critique opportunity is open until Friday, February 15, 2013.


Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


32 responses to “First Twenty-Five Pages and a Critique!

  1. heathermarsten04

    February 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

    What a wonderful offer. Thank you for this blog. I’ve found useful information on your site from writing good dialogues to editing helps. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  2. bwtaylor75

    February 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Great tips, Courtney. I haven’t heard of Hooked, but I’m moving it to the top of the buy list. I hope whoever wins appreciates, and understands just how valuable this 25 page critique is. Very gracious of you to offer such an awesome prize. I’m not going to put my email address here because I want someone else to win. I’ve already gotten so much from this blog. There isn’t enough time to say how thankful I am. So thank you, for all you do. That goes for all the founding ladies. Keep inspiring us and know we appreciate every thing you do.

  3. Kim

    February 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Some great tips. I especially like the one on checking out the first 30 pages of books published in the past few years.

  4. Laurie Litwin

    February 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I followed. Thanks for the opportunity. Great article! hagergirl(at)

  5. alysbcohen

    February 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Lovely. I think I hit these points. 🙂 alysbcohen at gmail dot com

  6. chasingthecrazies

    February 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve just found this blog and really love it. Thank you for providing such wonderful info on writing. I’ve read Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages, but not Hooked, which I’m going to check out right now!

  7. bradshreffler

    February 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for this post!! There is a lot of great info in here. And thanks for the offer! I’m currently in the query stage with my first book, so I really hope I win.

  8. bradshreffler

    February 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    This is a really helpful post and exciting offer. I’m in the querying stages with my first book and editing of my second, so I really hope I win!

  9. hagergirl

    February 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I followed. Thanks for the opportunity! Great information in this post! hagergirl(at)

  10. Amy Freeman

    February 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Woot woot! Awesome service, lady!! And to what you have said – SO true!

  11. Bluestocking

    February 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    This is a fantastic opportunity! Thanks so much! thebluestockingblog [at] gmail [dot] com

  12. keekeepie

    February 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    You have no idea how insightful this post was! It really made me look over my first 25 pages and question if it was the best I could make it. I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog!

  13. Rachel Schieffelbein

    February 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Wonderful tips, thanks! This is very helpful.

  14. Sari Webb

    February 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I find beginnings so painful to write. Mine’s been rewritten (from scratch) around five or six times! I still hate it. Would love another set of eyes! sari[dot]webb[at]gmail[dot]com

  15. Lindsay Leggett

    February 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Fantastic contest, Courtney! syrinxlster [at] gmail [dot] com

  16. Nicole L. Bates

    February 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I love the ten core components. That’s a quick and important reminder to put on a sticky note on my screen! Lovely offer as well. Thanks Courtney. My e-mail is

  17. Kallie Ross Mathews

    February 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I’m excited about the possibility of getting some helpful feedback! Thank you for the opportunity! My email address is kallieross(at) *fingerscrossed*

  18. waitingforaname

    February 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity. Following your blog now!

    • waitingforaname

      February 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Oops, I forgot my email! dearlisadunn(at)

  19. prerna pickett

    February 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    what an awesome giveaway! prernapickett at

  20. Jennifer E. McFadden

    February 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I love Hooked!

  21. Lorna Dounaeva

    February 9, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Great idea for a competition!

  22. Stephanie

    February 9, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Invaluable info for every writer. Thanks for doing this contest! Email: steph_smith_performer at yahoo dot ca

  23. Connie Cockrell

    February 9, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Excellent post. Picking the beginning is always tough for me. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of first pages. Good luck!

  24. Holly Le Roy

    February 9, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Hadn’t heard of HOOKED but will buy it for sure.

  25. Kerry Ann

    February 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Great post. Now I’m off to count off the pages to my inciting incident. I know it’s relatively close to that mark though. (And yes, I’d love to win a critique. kskm07(at)gmail(dot)com.)

  26. c stuart hardwick

    February 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Wow! What timing! I just found your blog, just as your are making this offer and just as I’m reader to benefit from it. I’m in! I’m going to check out some of my fellow writers here too!


  27. Kelly Garcia

    February 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Great advice and a wonderful offer. Thanks!

  28. J.A. Ward

    February 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Great post – just found this blog today and so happy I did. Thanks for the opportunity!

    • J.A. Ward

      February 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

      email is jawardwrites (at) gmail (dot) com – sorry forgot to originally include it 🙂

  29. Manju Howard

    February 10, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for this opportunity. I’m currently querying my MS. manjubeth(at)gmail(dot)com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: