Starting in January, 2011 "First Page" will be a regular column feature in The Writer Magazine. Look for it!

Friday, September 9, 2011



I have created this post in response to the success I've had at several workshops and conferences with what at first seemed to me a brave experiment: to see how much useful critical commentary and helpful (to the author) feedback could be extracted from just a single page—the first page—of a work-in-progress.

The first time I performed this experiment was at the New York Round Table Writer's Conference, at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen Library in Manhattan. I asked participants at the conference to submit—ahead of time and anonymously—the first page of a work-in-progress into a pool from which I would later draw at random.

About twenty authors submitted. During the conference these authors joined me in a large room packed with about seventy people. Since the submissions were made anonymously, I had no idea which faces in the room belonged to the authors whose works I would be commenting on.

One by one I extracted pages from the pile of twenty, copies of which were available to those in the audience. Together we read the pages. I gave my comments first, and then I opened the floor to discussion.

The experiment couldn't have been more successful. Just as I'd suspected, each of the first pages presented specific problems and solutions that opened up broader areas of discussion. I got the sense—as did everyone in the room, I think—that most if not all of the challenges pertaining to each of the works-in-progress we examined that afternoon were concentrated into those first pages, so that—had the full manuscripts been available, there would have been scarcely any need to read on. Most of what those authors needed to hear about their works they heard that day—enough, anyway, to return to their writing desks with a solid sense of what, if anything, they needed to do by way of revising or continuing to revise their works.

In one or two cases, what the authors heard was, "This is ready for publication." Always nice to hear.

My purpose with this blog is to offer other authors the same same opportunity to submit the first pages of their in-progress works and get feedback—first from me, and then, through comments, from others who may offer insights supporting or contradictory to mine. As the Italians like to say, "Tutto fa brodo"—everything makes broth.

There is no cost. I ask only that those who submit their first pages for discussion here allow the pages to be posted, and understand that the discussion is to be open to all followers of this blog. Also, I ask that any first pages submitted here be made available for use in a future print and or book use, with the same theme, structure, and purpose.

So—do consider sending me your first page. First pages (only, please!) should be sent to me as word.doc attachments. For my contact information please see the submissions sidebar at the top side of this page, or click HERE.