Totally Awesome Takeaways from Mary Kole’s Beginnings Workshop

Literary agent, Mary Kole, who specializes in children’s literature at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, recently completed her 5-part Novel Beginnings Workshop. Her thoughtful critiques of 5 submitted novel openers are brimming with tips on writing beginnings that hook your readers. Stop by her blog to read these detailed critiques AND to have a look at her agent wish list.

For a sneak peek from the workshops, here are my top takeaways. Thanks, Mary!

Workshop 1: Interiority and characterizing details reveal the main character as a person. Make sure your writing is mimetic.

Workshop 2: Opening paragraphs ground readers in time and place. Your narrator’s voice must match the time period and vantage point of your story – which is especially important in historical novels.

Workshop 3: Beware of play-by-play narration that is incidental to the story. It’s more important for your reader to understand the context of the action. Voice is critical, in children’s literature especially. We need to know what’s in our main character’s head in the opening scene and not allow our adult point of view to slip in. And as an addendum from Workshop 4 – if you can’t change your voice, change your character to fit your voice.

Workshop 4: Beware of jarring or dialog heavy beginnings that don’t ground the reader. Improper grounding leads to confusion which leads to distraction. Openings should fully engage your readers rather than causing them to step outside the story to rethink what they just read. When readers need to step outside the story, the stakes diminish. See also Workshop 3.

Workshop 5: Readers need to be emotionally involved with the main character right from the start. What might prevent readers from bonding with your main character? Dry adult language, dense writing, invisible stakes or unclear motivation.

To read the submissions in full and Mary Kole’s workshops in their entirety check out .

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