What’s the difference between a novel and a skirt? Not as much as you’d think. Both are subject to the fads and fancies of the marketplace. If you’ve recently picked up a classic novel—I picked up Middlemarch by George Eliot—you might find that although it’s been touted as a masterpiece of English literature, its underlying themes, pace, and tone are dated.
In today’s market, the author competes with various entertainment options for readers who typically have little time. Did you know the average person today decides whether or not to read a book within just a few minutes of opening it? To hook your reader, some event has to topple your protagonist’s stable world quickly, within the first scene. Likewise, the first sentence has to plunge your protagonist into the story, arouse curiosity, and promise trouble. For example, I started my first novel, The Deadliest Lie (Bell Bridge Books, 2013), with this sentence: “I wondered what lie I’d tell as I approached the great mahogany doors of my father, Isaac ben Asher’s study.”
And the story has to move quickly. Today’s successful authors trust their readers to be able to jump from one scene to the next without a lengthy transition. They use dialog and short paragraphs (lots of white spaces) to make their readers’ eyes fly down the page. And rather than long passages, which tend to bore readers, they keep their descriptions brief, with just a few telling words incorporated into an action.
So launch your story with a provocative first sentence and action-filled scene and fold your descriptions into your action statements. Then, unlike this poodle skirt, you'll be current with today's fads and fancies.