Over and over I have read that the first few pages are critical if you want to grab an agent. And so the fear sets in. It would be awful to lose a chance at getting published due to a weak first 600 words! With these thoughts on my mind, I've been putting a lot of effort into my opening pages.
The opening scene involves my protagonist, Hadde, tracking a raiding party heading for her home village. The raiders are nervous that they are about to be ambushed. My struggle in writing this scene was in how to describe the nervousness of the raiders. My initial efforts involved a lot of telling and little showing. I was doing a lot of things like this:
The Kiremi, with their bright tunics and curved bows, warily scanned the forest.
They seemed weary and defeated, not like the last time they had stormed her village.
The problem was in describing someone who was nervous, without saying, "They were nervous." Fidgeting with their weapons seemed pretty weak.
I went to my friend, Mike Shultz, and asked his opinion. He thought I should show the Kiremi raiders reacting to something. Something like a falling tree branch that startles them. VOILA!
I posted my new opening at the Evil Editor's website. We'll see what his minions have to say about it. The revised opening is down in the comments. You can compare it to the original and see if you think it has improved much.
If you don't feel like rooting through the Evil Editor site to find my revisions you can see my opening here. The link takes you to a google doc where the opening is a work in progress. If you scroll down you can see revisions and comments made by my critique partner.