It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.
(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)
I love this article. And not from any sort of smug sense of empathy for Olson’s situation. I only very rarely am asked to read something someone else has written.
(Very awkward, unless I know the person very well.)
No, I’m come from the other side of things. I don’t stick my writing in front of other people and insist that they help me sell it.
This quote is perfection. “You’re judging this entire book/screenplay/movie based solely on the first few pages!!!” newbies whine. No, I’m not. I’m judging YOU, based on the first few pages. It’s possible that between Page 3 and Page 4 you magically became an interesting storyteller who’s mastered the proper use of adverbs. But that’s unlikely, unless you wrote the first few pages in junior high and then resumed the project sometime during graduate school.
(In which case: “Scrap the whole thing and start all over again”…that’s my advice.)
I usually use the “three flip” rule when browsing in a bookstore. If I can flip to random pages three times and each page compels me to read the page that comes next, I’m sold.