Dear Author, Dump the Prologue

I don’t hate a prologue. In fact, I can absolutely love a prologue. The problem I see for debut authors and those submitting to agents, or at least to me, is that the prologue is often used as a crutch. It’s an easy way to fill the reader in on backstory so that you, the author, can write the real book.

My suggestion to dump the prologue doesn’t mean you need to throw it away for good. Instead, put it in a safe place and decide later if you need to use it, but decide way later, after you get an agent and after you’ve finished the book. Decide at that time if the prologue is a crutch or real added value.

No matter how great your book is as a whole you will be judged by agents, editors, and readers on those first pages. Is your prologue the strongest and most exciting writing you have? Will it grab the reader and suck them in for 400 more pages?

When submitting a query to me, and to most BookEnds agents, you will be asked to include sample pages or a sample chapter. In this instance, you should always include the first chapter (not the prettiest from the middle of your book), but I would suggest it never be the prologue. I rarely feel like the prologue gives me the meat I’m looking for when getting a feel for a writer’s work. It’s not typically the author’s best foot forward and it’s not usually what grabs me.

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. I always think of a prologue almost as an out-of-time back story, not what you could call normal back story.

    Maybe …
    How a locket was lost by a young Victorian girl when she was hiding from her tutor.
    With a story about the young woman who figuring out the mystery of who owned it.
    The normal back story would be how she had found the locket when she was a child herself.

    If that makes any sense at all? And I am even close?

  2. My biggest complaint about prologues is that I’ll be just getting “into” the story and then the prologues ends and I have to get “into” the story all over again because the first chapter has nothing to do with the prologue.

  3. I think “don’t use a prologue” was one of the first rules of writing for unpublished authors I ever learnt. I know of published authors who were asked to add a prologue, so I’ve always figured if it was needed an agent would advise =)

  4. My current novel that is making the rounds had a twelve page prologue. I promise you it was the greatest prologue ever written. Roses could have/should have been tossed at my feet.
    Parades, TV interviews and endless Pizza buffet’s. One tiny problem: Of the 14 people who read it all 14 agreed it was unnecessary. Sometimes you have to listen to your readers and sadly agree. So much for my world’s greatest prologue. Deep sigh……

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