I recently rewrote the opening to my novel I’m querying. I poured over it and it is error free. It’s a pain in the ass, 99% of the first 3500 words are perfect and then, woops, you put an A before the noun and it screws up the flow. But that’s the difference. The first chapter has to be polished, and more than that? It needs to set the tone. This was drilled into my head from high school football and it makes sense.
The query you write should match the opening you’ve written. What I had was an older opening that setup the tone but didn’t start where the query did. This was a bad idea and probably why I received a few rejections recently.
Incongruence is a death sentence. The more I thought on it, the more I realized I wasn’t presenting the right character to the potential reader. The novel I wrote is not that POV character’s opening. What I was writing might sound/ be enticing but if I open up the first chapter and I’m presented with a different character from the one I read about in the query? Ehh.
But I rewove all those recent “prologue” events/scenes in brief snippets to give context to the leadup to the chapter one end. And for the first two pages, there’s no dialogue. It’s the character reaching his destination, briskly. The opening scene does several things: it sets up the recent events, gives a brief visual description/tone setting for that location, provides a bit of background, but doesn’t spend 500 words going into each battle, because that’s not relevant at hand.
The only relevant details are the ones that relate to the POV character’s thoughts and perspective. And then in the last thousand words of the chapter? BAM, there’s the hook in the query. Wait, what? What’s going on? Oh, shit, WHAT?
It might not be perfect, it might need to down the line shave some lines and remove them or place them later, but it matches the query’s selling point. That’s why it’s critical that your opening matches your query.