BEA Swag/First Page Test

So on Halloween night when you get home, do you ever take a picture of the collected swag? Or at least dump it on the bed and ogle?

Well I don’t Trick or Treat much anymore, but here’s (most of) my BEA swag, all organized by size.

Mmm . . . free books.

When buying books, I usually avoid the back cover (spoilers!) and go straight for the first-page test. Judging a 80,000-word document on the basis of one page may seem cruel and unusual, but I’ve found that most books reveal a lot about themselves in that first minute. At least, they reveal more than real-live human beings when you first meet them. A human, after all, might just be having a bad day.

So here’s a quick BEA-swag-related First Page Test for your delectation.

Chain Mail, by Hiroshi Ishikazi (Tokyopop)
(fourth from right, bottom row)

I stood in front of the mailbox and cried. Snow fell around me, frosting my hair and shoes, slowly blotting out the words of the test results I held in my hands. Out of over twenty-five thousand test-takers, I had placed first in Japanese, Mathematics, Science, Basic Studies, and General Studies. I had finally made it.

But it was too late. My mother was gone, and she wasn’t coming back. If I had only studied harder, if I had only gotten these results a month earlier, maybe it would have made a difference.

Melting snow slid down my back. I shivered, remembering the sound of flesh striking flesh . . .

Things that brought me in:

1) “I stood in front of the mailbox and cried” is a lovely first sentence. We are somewhere specific, and something specific is happening.

2) I like “frosting” a lot, because it’s being used in a slightly unusual way, and is strong visually. And there’s something perfect about the snow alighting specifically on the character’s “hair and shoes.” Hair, because it reveals that she’s not wearing a hat—she just stepped out to grab the eagerly awaited mail. And shoes, because she’s looking down at the letter, and also because she’s crying—staring at your shoes is not usually a sign of happiness. (I’m assuming the protag’s a girl because of the cover, by the way.)

3) Wait, she’s crying because the test results are perfect? Brain was ready for the opposite. Unexpected is good.

4) The second paragraph sets off a wave of micro-mysteries for the reader. How did her test results make her mother go away? And is her mother dead, or something else?

5) “Melting snow slid down my back. I shivered, remembering . . . ” is a cool way to physicalize the bad memory. And “flesh striking flesh” is definitely bad, bad, bad.

Things that kicked me out:

1) The construction “test-takers” is clunky to me. Like, why not say “students”? I mean, we know this is about testing. You could just say “Out of twenty-five thousand, I had placed first” and it would make sense. Still, the term is probably just a literal move from the more elegant Japanese. Translations get a few extras free passes, because I like the odd feel of an ocassional literalness.

2) Maybe we’re going a little too quickly into the explanation of this little micro-mystery? I’m not a fan of flashbacks that start before we’re fully in a scene, which always seems stagey.

These are minor quibbles, though. I’d definitely keep going.

I’ll be doing more of these soon. It’s a fun and easy way to dispense writing advice. But I won’t be doing any American authors, for reasons that I will soon reveal.

And in fairness, I’ll be putting up my own first page soon . . . Extras‘, that is. So you can mock it to your hearts’ content.

53 thoughts on “BEA Swag/First Page Test

  1. YES! The first page of Extras is here! (Well almost)
    That’s interesting how it’s east to analyze a book like that but mostly words like frosted go unnoticed to the average reader.

  2. Yay I sooo cant wait to read the first part of Extras!
    You’re like, my favourite author!!!
    Im going to be an author when I grow up too

  3. I’ve been looking at Chain Mail for awhile. It sounds amazing & yes the first page is quite nice. It’s interesting to see your take on if a book sounds good or not. I think I’m a bit more lax on the matter, but I also don’t make a living writing. I am jealous you got a free copy though. And when are those extra Extras going to be dispersed among those of us not lucky enough to go to BEA???

  4. Yay! I can’t wait for the first page of Extras!!
    Although, if you put it up, I would be sooo much more anxious to actually get the whole book.

  5. Ahhh, I can’t wait!!

    And there are some good-looking book covers there. o.o Is it possible if you could make a list of the titles? ^-^

    And I didn’t know you were a fan of “Chibi Vampire”! =P It’s an ADORABLE series.

  6. the first page of extras is going to be posted? this is totally awesome, but now i have no idea how i’ll make it until october after reading just the first page. that’s like breaking open a pinata and finding no candy inside! and as of now i’m googling the titles of some of those books to find out more about them (i’m a back cover-reader, tried and true!). some look really good–based on titles and cover design, that is.

    hey scott, is there any way that we could get an “i’m an ugly/pretty/special/extra” shirt? i’d pay for one of those, but alas, you have not revealed to us any methods by which we could acquire some!

  7. *ogles at lovely BEA swag* *considers giving in to best friend’s demands to read manga books no matter how confusing they are to read* i’m so jealous. can’t wait for the first page of extras. my friend is now reading uglies and particularly like the description of the sky. she said it was a very funny first page because of that. (in a good way)

  8. I strongly doubt I’m gonna mock Extras. This makes me think about Miss Snark (, an agent who blogs, because she analyzed query letters and first pages in her first posts.

  9. Now I want free books. Darn.
    A whole first page?! This is exciting!
    But I still want books. I have no book money left, and so I must rely on the library. (Though they do like to give me free books in exchange for book reviews…)

  10. i truly dont wanna be rude, but i’m not excited anymore. =[ i mean i’ve heard ’bout it so much (Extras that is) and…it’s like the whole world knows, not fool…i would luv free books tho! that would kick a$$!!!!! *happy dance*! i’m boredy-oredy…

  11. Oooh my god. I WANT EXTRAS! I WANT FREE BOOKS!

    Yesterday at the bookstore they said they’d have Extras within the first week it comes out. Therefore, all is right in the universe.

  12. Hi, what is the name of the book at the top right hand corner? It immediately attracted my attention the moment I saw it, and I would love to know what it is about. Thanks!

  13. when you post extras that would be the perfect b-day present for me. my b-day is on the 16th and i am turning 15.

  14. i would never mock extras
    please post the first 3 chapters, i cant find them on a certain search engine whose name is a large numer
    and scott, if you want ideas for your next book another vampire novel would be fantasmical
    does anyone know if i pre-order extras from amazon if i get it oct 2nd or if thats when they ship it

  15. I see a Shonen Jump in there O_O That’s what I’m talking about =O!

    Whoo! First page of extras! *excited*

  16. 13 Bullets is a good one.

    I personally read the lats page most of the time. If it says something like…

    “I kissed his lips and shot him again, before flying away on my unicorn.”

    Then, I know to avoid it.

  17. If a book ended with “I kissed his lips and shot him again before flying away on my unicorn.” I might read it! Sorry, Loej.

  18. ok amy, don’t get defensive.

    why would you read the last page??
    it could have some important spoiler!!
    i just. flick through the book randomly 🙂

    e.g. one book i flicked through had a boy turning into a platypus.

  19. sorry about that. i had to take my sister to band camp today and i made it a point to wear my orchestra shirt.

  20. i never read the sumerys (i think its a sin aginst nature: sort of) free books(i want them) and now ill be hanging off 2 cliffs with the first page (so exited)

  21. SCOTT!!! Great idea!
    You post the 1st page of Extras, we email you our analysis, and if we do a REALLY good job, then we get a FREE SAMPLE BOOK!
    Isn’t that a great idea?

  22. OMG!! I cant wait…. but Im going 2 have 2!! Im gonna be gone 4 a whole entire week!!! Im leaving in an hour!!! My volleyball team is going 2 Nationals in Disney World!!! (It sounds far, but not really I only live about 2 hours away, so we get 2 go alot!!) But I won’t be able to use a computer 4 a whole week! So not fair!

  23. Thanks for doing this…I particularly appreciated your Positive Observation #2. How would you feel about a prof (um, me) sharing this or future such exercises with her creative writing students? Would you be pro or anti? P.S. I ogled, but did not photograph for posterity, my Halloween hauls. Hadn’t remembered that until now, though.

  24. Are you kidding me…we are really going to get the chance to read the first page of extras awww man this is truely very bubbly-making. Oh and dude Scott where are our promised sample Extras books and t-shirts? Please to tease us we are very sensative.

  25. i third laine-wa’s idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i like that idea laine-wa!!!! ur smart i would of nevver thought of that!!!!!!!!!!!!! cool so scott please!!!! pretty please with sugar on top!!!! i want the first three chapters!!! BAD!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!

  26. if there was a book with a boy turning into a platypus, i would burn it! it would look so0o0o stupid!

  27. when i see if a book is good, i read the back (if it is a hard back, i read the front flap). i use to read the last page when i was half way through, but when i read the last sentence of pretties before i finnished it, it spoiled the ending. that is why i dont do that any more(even if i have to tape the last page to the back cover.)

  28. I wouldn’t burn a book with a picture of a boy turning into a platypus on it. I still have a lot of Animorph books. I loved those when I was younger.

  29. Oh, for those of you who don’t know, Animorphs has a picture of a kid turning into an animal on every cover.

  30. Oh wow, I really think I should go get that book now! After I’m done with The Killing Of Worlds, of course.

  31. well i am not sure if i wanna erad the first page or i owuld go crazy… if i havent already bcuz i have to wait so long for extras!!! well i guess im gonna have to read it!!! darn you Scott!!!lol just kidding

  32. That is pretty cool! I also use the first-page test to see if I like the author’s writing style.
    a few incomplete thoughts later….

    About Extras, all I can say is that I hope it doesn’t stop mid-sentence.

  33. haha.
    well the boy actually DIDNT turn into a platypus, if you’re still interested.
    the girl was having a hallucination.
    and it was The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Comments are closed.