Pacing... First 50 pages

What do agents look for when they ask for the "first 50 pages"?

First of all, usually the partial would include a brief synopsis. That way, the agent already knows how your story begins, unfolds and ends by only spending five minutes reading your synopsis. Some might even have read the customary 3 sample chapters, so they'd already be familiar with your style, interested enough to ask for the 50 pages.

So what's the purpose of the first 50 pages?


I'd say the most important thing an agent look for is how well you pace your story. Granted, some stories start slower than others (thrillers, for example, usually starts and continues with a break-neck pace). 50 manuscript pages is about one-tenth of a full manuscript. So what an agent or editor is looking for is pacing.

A lot of times pacing and "interesting" go hand-in-hand though. A "slow" story means nothing really interesting "happens" for a long while. A bunch of characters sitting around talking about life... etc. It could still be interesting in terms of prose quality or character development... but characters are mostly interesting when they're DOING something, not when they're sitting around contemplating the remains of the day.

I'd say, no matter the genre, within the first 50 pages the following should happen:

- the major characters should be introduced (there are times when a major character appear later in the book -- that's okay)
- the main conflict should be presented
- one or two major revelations should be presented
- at least one major plot turn, especially near the end of the 50 pages to keep you wanting to read the next 50...
- the writing style should be consistent


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