Blogging super-agent Nathan Bransford just wrote about flash-bang starts, slower starts, and the point in the novel by which time SOMETHING has to be set in motion. Worth a read for everyone who participated in the comments on my blog over the past couple of days: You've got 30 pages, pal.
(That's 30 pages of double-spaced 12pt Times, each of which is roughly equivalent to a page in a published novel. If you're counting single-spaced pages you only have 15.)
Out of interest I dragged Hal books 1-4 off the shelf and checked to see what I'd managed to throw at the reader by page 30. In each case they've hit the end of chapter two and several plot threads have been set in motion. Since I make a point of finishing just about every chapter with a hook of some kind, it's likely they'd want to read on to see What Happens Next.
So, regarding the opening scenes of Hal 5, it looks like I can build it up and introduce all the plot elements in my usual fashion, as long as the boulder is rolling downhill by the end of chapter two. No sweat!
How about you? Are the events leading up to page 30 of your manuscript enough of a hook to keep your readers interested? (And yes, Fantasy authors, that twelve page prologue with the Entire History o' your Universe is included in the 30, even though I've never read a prologue in my life.)
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)