During my MFA program at Pine Manor College in Boston, I spent an entire semester studying the opening pages of novels and memoirs. I read at least a hundred books and finally concluded that effective opening pages must possess the following:
1) The hook—that great line or two that entices the reader to continue;
2) The setup, which includes setting, back-story, introduction of characters and foreshadowing;
3) The conflict—or as some call it, the opening action which sets up the initial surface problem and ultimately the yearning, the emotion that drives the story.
If you rework your openings to include the above, you’ll be on the way to publication. You don’t have to do it all with your first try. That’s why we edit our work. Go back into the text and spruce up the hook to make it as enticing as possible. Does your setting anchor the reader? What’s the conflict? Will it be enough to carry your story? Think about each of the three items listed above while reading your first pages. You’ll be glad you did.