I'm seeing several query submissions where the story doesn't start in the right place. The query shows the inciting event - but the author is starting the pages after the inciting event has already happened.
As readers, we lose creating a connection to your main character (MC) when you start with the inciting event rather than just before it. We don't get the chance to learn a little about the MC while they're humming along in life prior to the inciting event. We don't know what it is they want out of life, what their fear, flaw, or misbelief is - what they're struggling with internally or externally. We don't know what's important to them or what they love or hate.
Knowing your main character and how they live in their normal world will help readers connect emotionally to them so that when the inciting event occurs, we really feel for your MC and want to follow along to see how they're going to handle this terrible thing that has just happened to them - the thing that's ripping them out of their comfort zone.
If you're starting with the inciting event on the first page (or the first couple of pages), you'll want to back up and show the MC in their normal world. Give readers a small look into what their life is normally like (including their internal struggle and biggest want) so that when the inciting event happens, readers can see how they handle it, what decisions they make, and how this new world they've just been thrust into will change them and their lives as the story progresses.
Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part, if you want readers to be able to really connect with your main character and your story, start just before the inciting event and show us your character in their normal world before everything goes to hell.
Let me give an example (that I just made up off the top of my head) to help illustrate what I mean.
Let's say our main character is named Bennie. He's had a terrible string of bad luck searching for a job. He needs a job because his parents are going to kick him out because they're selling their house and moving to Hawaii. He has bills to pay (car, insurance, student loans, etc.). Bennie also has this big dream - he wants to save enough money to buy an RV and travel the U.S. to do nature photography, one day he'd like to be able to live on the income he makes from his photos.
Well Bennie's been to seventy-two job interviews over the past three months and still hasn't gotten a job offer (might have something to do with the fact that Bennie doesn't believe in himself and subconsciously sabotages the interviews - this will be what he struggles with throughout the story - his arc of change will show by the end that he learns to believe in himself). Then, suddenly, a month after his parents have sold their house and moved (and Bennie has been living in his car) he gets a job offer.
If you were to start your story with Bennie getting the job offer, readers miss out on all the important information about Bennie, about his dreams and his emotional struggle (not believing in himself). We don't get to experience all those emotions he's going through as he gets rejection after rejection. We don't get to see how he's sabotaging himself, and we don't get to experience what Bennie experiences when he finally gets a job offer. We wouldn't root for him as hard as we would if we knew everything that was happening in his life prior to finally getting the job (of then which new problems arise because he still doesn't believe in himself at this point - it will take the whole novel for him to get the point of believing in himself).
Also, this isn't the greatest example, but hopefully it gives you a good idea.
WOW, I opened to queries and you all delivered. I thought I'd put my first month stats here for those interested, and I want a record of this phenomenal month for future reference.
In my first 24 hours of opening, I received 450 queries. By day seven, I had received over 700 queries. The incoming queries slowed down after that. I had only anticipated receiving between 30-50 queries on that first day! I am grateful for every query I received.
In the month of September, I received a total of 1095 queries.
I also received 8 notifications of offers. Five were publisher offers and three were agent offers.
The genre breakdown for the queries I received:
Chick Lit: 8
Family Saga: 14
Mystery Cozy: 20
Romance Contemporary: 48
Romance Historical: 18
Romance Paranormal: 5
Romance Regency/Victorian: 2
Romance: Thriller/Suspense: 18
Science Fiction: 223
Women's Fiction: 42
How To: 1
Memoir Survival Story: 15
Natural Health & Healing: 1
Science & Technology: 1
True Crime: 2
As you can see Fantasy is astronomical and Science Fiction is close behind.
I still have 81 undecided queries in my inbox as of writing this.
I requested 30 full manuscripts. The breakdown of those I requested are as follows:
Cozy Mystery: 3
Romance Thriller/Suspense: 1
Romance Contemporary: 1
Romance Historical: 1
Romance Regency/Victorian: 1
Science Fiction: 4
Trends I noticed:
Stories set in the 80s (lots!)
Cults in some way, shape, or form
Comps I noted were used often:
Gideon the Ninth
A Memory Called Empire
I've learned a few things about my tastes and what I don't gravitate toward. For example, I'm not as fond of stories with paranormal creatures or fantasy creatures such as elves, fae, vampires, or werewolves. I'm also not as fond of stories where the politics are too close to our own since we live it every day. I like to escape and experience politics in other worlds (can include important topics of our world though!) and in unique ways and how the MC deals with it there.
As you can see, I've been super busy and have spent a ton of time in my query inbox (it still hurts A LOT to send passes and I actually say, "I'm sorry" every time).
In the month of October, I hope to focus a lot more time on my full requests because I have so many amazing manuscripts to read.