Your First Page

Your First Page is unlike any other craft book on writing. It is based on the premise that almost everything that can go right or wrong in a work of fiction or memoir goes wrong or right on the first page. The book grew out of an experiment for which writers submitted nearly one hundred anonymous first pages of works-in-progress for analysis. The experiment proved two things: that first pages function like canaries in coalmines, forecasting success or predicting trouble. They establish the crucial bond between writer and reader, setting us off on a path toward the heart or climax of a story, or they fail to do so. The experiment also demonstrated that from first pages we stand to learn most of what we need to know to succeed as authors.


“The straightforward premise of Peter Selgin’s Your First Page — your story or novel is as good as its first page—is ingenious, seductive and bracingly pragmatic. A boon for teachers of writing, this charming, immensely readable handbook on writing is destined to appear in countless libraries and classrooms and be given treasured space on the bookshelves of seasoned and aspiring writers alike.”—Melissa Pritchard, author of A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write and Palmerino

“With an emphasis on the creative process itself, I have long taught the critical importance of the first few pages of any work of fiction. What a delight to find a smart, perceptive, enormously useful book that focuses on the craft and technique issues of these same make-or-break first 500 words. I heartily recommend Peter Selgin’s Your First Page to any aspiring young writer.”—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of From Where You Dream, The Process of Writing Fiction

“Like a detective dusting for fingerprints, in Your First Page Peter Selgin demonstrates how a close examination of the opening paragraphs of a story, novel, or essay can reveal much more than a beginning writer might imagine: the entire work’s DNA. In example after example, he demonstrates the kind of close reading that will serve any writer well, and offers sound advice on exposition, scene, characterization, point of view, style, and many more essential components of effective prose. Though it can serve the individual writer toiling away at home, I look forward to sharing it with students in my classes, too.”—Peter Turchi, author of A Muse and A Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic

“Peter Selgin’s Your First Page not only reveals myriad ways to begin a narrative but how to establish a promising path toward the conclusion. A practical guide for literary writers.”—Steve Heller, author of What We Choose to Remember

“Selgin is a champion instructor. The breadth of his reading is vast, his taste is impeccable, his ear true. This brilliant, engaging focus on, ostensibly, writing your first page, contains within it, like the submerged part of an iceberg, the whole, rounded Selgin: masterful advice to begin, and get you all the way to your story’s end. In his writing on craft, and his own works of memoir and fiction, Peter Selgin is my favorite contemporary writer.”—Peter Nichols, author of A Voyage for Madmen and The Rocks