For many aspiring writers, they dredge up a range of emotions. There's nothing quite like putting your baby out there, only for it to be returned to you a few months later marked up in red, with scores that have you wonder for a second if they've accidentally left a digit out.
I entered my first contest in 2008. To be honest, I knew little about writing and nothing about publishing. Fortunately, the contest ordained everything from the font, to the size, to the margins to the line spacing so I didn't have a chance to embarrass myself by sending in something single spaced, written in Verdana, in size 6 font, with 0.5 inch margins.
This was good, since the content held plenty that now makes me want to bang my head against the wall and be eternally thankful that at least entries are anonymous. Suffice to say the judges did not think they'd read the opening pages to the next Gone With The Wind.
I've since learnt that opening your story with you main character stuck in a traffic jam doing a lot of philosophical thinking isn't the best way to hook a reader. They also generally don't care much about what she had for dinner last night or how long it's been since her car got serviced.
What readers want, we're told, is ACTION. Especially at the beginning. Things have to be happening, and fast. You can fill us in on her elderly cat called Skittles who has a thing for donuts later.
My question for you is this; we're told that readers want action and they want it fast but how fast? What is your preference? Do you want to get to know your character at all before we knock her / him over the head with getting sacked / finding out husband is cheating / discovering they've accidentally picked up the only copy of the nuclear launch codes and have terrorists after them?
Or do you prefer a few pages (by which I mean 3 not 30) of getting to know them and scene setting before the writer turns their world inside down and upside out?