>The dreaded opening. Everywhere we turn, we hear how important that first sentence and the opening paragraph is. It’s what hooks the reader, garners an agents attention. And so we stress over those first few sentences until we need to drown our frustration in hot chocolate and chocolate cupcakes.

But is it really necessary? Everyone says so, right? Most agents do as well. But then I ran across a post today by agent Scott Eagan and it got me thinking.  We stress so much, spend so much time perfecting those first few sentences … but we tend to forget the whole picture. Here’s what Scott had to say – take it for what it’s worth.

When we read your stories, we want to always want to keep reading. This is not just at the beginning but throughout the entire book. Think about the books you love. I’m talking about the ones you simply couldn’t put down. Was it only the first line of the book? The first paragraph? Absolutely not, it was the entire story. The author continually added layers or twists that made you want to find out how the characters would get through this next obstacle.

I want you to take a look at the books you like a lot. I’m talking about the books that really hooked you. My bet is that it wasn’t just the first line.

So, stop obsessing over that opening line. In fact, stop obsessing over those single sentences and words throughout your entire novel. Look at the whole thing as a big picture. Is this a story that people will want to keep reading? Is this story doing something ALL of the time to keep me wanting to turn pages? That is what you want.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Does it mean I’ll stop spending countless hours redoing my first page? Nope. But, I will keep in mind that it’s the whole story that counts, I don’t just need to hook the reader, I have to keep them hooked. That’s what lands me an agent, what keeps my readers turning the pages.