I just read this on MFA admissions. If you don’t grab ’em with the first paragraph in your writing sample, you’re all done. I think he says 75-85 percent of applications are thrown out immediately after the first paragraph. It makes sense. It’s the same way with any fiction, really. If you’re not grabbed right away, why go on to read the rest?
People often criticize me for saying that I decide whether I want to read books based on my reading of the first paragraph, but in my experience — especially since writers are coached over and over on writing strong first paragraphs — there is virtually no chance that a book will improve from there. And life is too short to waste more than one minute on bad writing.
Amen. I think the first paragraph or first page should make the book take flight. Some kind of electricity has to be generated right away, otherwise there’s nothing to propel me forward.