Free First Page Critique

posted by Sarah Holroyd

I’ve subscribed to The Writer magazine for a few years now, and I always find helpful information between its covers. In the March issue, I found something particularly intriguing that I thought I’d share. It was a new bi-monthly column by author Peter Selgin (2007 Flannery O’Connor Award winner for Fiction) based on his blog Your First Page. In this blog, and the column, Selgin critiques the anonymous first page of a novel (up to 350 words). His goal with The Writer column is to use both good and bad first pages, and to point out exactly what does and doesn’t work with each. With the blog, Selgin provides his critique of the page, then readers are invited to add their own critiques in the comments.

Submission of your own first page is free. The guidelines for submission are on the blog, with the understanding that submitting your work grants Selgin the right to quote from it (anonymously) in other forms, including using the page in its entirety in The Writer column.

I’ve got two works-in-progress that I’m tempted to submit…but I’m not sure if my skin is quite thick enough for the potentially harsh critique. Selgin certainly doesn’t pull any punches if he thinks the work needs…well, work.

But this first page exercise has an immense amount of value to a hopeful writer. The first page is the face your work shows the world. If this page doesn’t shine for all it’s worth, how can you expect an agent or editor to turn to the next one? So risking a potentially harsh review of your baby’s face may be just the thing you need if you think it’s ready to go out into the world.

If you do send Your First Page in and receive a critique on it…do comment here and let us know how it went! If I can work up the courage to send either of mine in, I’ll be sure to post a bit about my results, too.