The first three chapters have been requested and I'm thinking the opening pages just aren't good enough. Maybe it's too much backstory too early? Too many names being introduced?
I've hesitated completing the submission because I've had to read over the pages, again and again, wondering if I'm blowing another opportunity with writing that doesn't meet all the rules.
You know the rules. Noah Lukeman's rules for the first five pages, that is.
The book is readily available second-hand, since it's often used in writing classes and the students don't always have an urge to hang on to the textbook.
Once you get past the chapters about spelling and grammar, you arrive at the more esoteric regulations for good novel openings. Not too much backstory, and not too many characters.
Naturally, you'll find plenty of novels that break the rules. You'll also notice that those novels are either not debut fiction, or they're written by MFAs with a string of awards who get to write their own rules.
What can I do about my particular opening? Some backstory is needed to set up the premise, to get the reader interested in what's to come. How much is too much? Damned if I know.
The plot of the novel turns on a conspiracy with a huge number of people involved. Quite a complex proposition, and how can I set up the conspiracy without naming names? I could re-write the first chapter, I suppose, and have two characters discuss things without resorting to appellations. Refer to their colleagues by number, perhaps, like a secret society?
Should I re-write the first chapter? Should I stick with what I have and send it off anyway? I like the way it reads. I like the way it presents the protagonist's conflict between his duty to himself and to his country.
What else can I do but take a chance and hope that if the pages are rejected, I get some tiny fragment of feedback to give me a clue about which way to go.
Might as well hit send and hope for the best. It's all so subjective anyway.