Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Results from the Thanksgiving Break Writing Challenge

I saw several things with the "first line" contest during the Thanksgiving break last week. Let me hightlight a few of the over-all trends I saw.
  • Had to be 1 line. I know this sounds picky, but was the rule. I should note, this really goes back to the comments I have made here on the blog about following the guidelines. For an agent or editor, while we might not send you an automatic rejection letter if you don't follow the rules, it does plant a thought in our head as to a whether or not you would be someone who could follow the revision notes should we sign you. Just something to stick with. I will note, I did look at the comments and in all of the cases when there was more than one sentence, I found several of the problems listed below.
  • Too wordy and forced. In several of the cases, it was clear the writer was trying too hard to find the right word and phrase. Unfortunately, when we see this, it gives us a feeling of too much wordsmithing. The writing needs to come across as very natural
  • Rambling sentences. Packing a lot into a single sentence is tough. It is possible to do, but the fluency of the read still needs to be there, and this goes for all sentences in your story and not simply the first line. The easier the writing is to read, the easier it is to suck the reader in.
  • Lack of clarity. There were several I saw that I felt could have had the potential, but I was unclear as to who or what we were talking about. Mentioning plot elements without a reference point, especially in the opening pages creates too much confusion. This is something that happens a lot when an author inserts a prologue from the bad guy in a book but doesn't give us a name or context to attach the scene to.
  • Cutsey writing. This is that forced writing I spoke about yesterday. A line that is too cute or is attempting to just be "a great sentence" doesn't come across as a natural read.
  • Huh? O.K. I had a couple of these. I simply read the line(s) and had to ask myself what you were thinking. You simply lost me
  • Simply description In this case, we return to the telling vs. showing argument. I had a couple of the lines that seemed to be nothing but a description of the scene without giving me a feeling of tone or voice.
So, the final ones that caught my attention were...

Katya said...

She waited until he kissed her before she stole his keys; she didn't count on his best friend seeing.

I liked this one simply because we have action and we have motivation on her part. At some level, I would hope we know why she is stealing the keys and that should happen in the next sentence, although I do think it could have happened here. For example, "...she stole his keys to the National Treasury..."
KimberlyFDR said...

In that moment, she thought they would be together forever, but three years later the photograph served as a motivation for murder.

This one is fun. The only issue I had here was the time element. I think I would have re-worded the opening to give us a true sense of when this is taking place.

Patti Shenberger said...

Undercover Detective Mack Cortland pulled the woman to him, knowing the 'Grassy Knoll killer' was standing less than twenty feet away surveying his next victim.

Great sense of action here. The only question I had was why the detective wasn't going to catch the killer right there when he was able to do so.
Lee Burgess said...

Cameron watched over Portia as his brother took her in his arms and kissed her, the same brother who'd murdered him in a hail of gunfire, turning him into the very worst kind of spirit.

The paranormal element is great here. This tended to be a bit too wordy for me. I would have liked to have seen more of the paranormal brought to the forefront.
And the winner is...
KimberlyFDR said...

In that moment, she thought they would be together forever, but three years later the photograph served as a motivation for murder.

Send me a synopsis at the agency and make sure to include in the subject line, REQUESTED MATERIAL - TURKEY WEEK CONTEST!



  1. Congratulations to all of the ones that got picked. That was a fun contest by the way. I hope you will run more of them.

  2. Oh wow! :) Thanks so much for this opportunity.

  3. Congratulations Kimberly!

  4. Congratulations Kimberly! And also congrats to everyone who got picked. Scott, I appreciate your taking the time to do this.

  5. Congratulations Kimberly! It was great fun and hey, I learned something - again. Thanks Scott.

  6. Thanks for the critique! This will help me to refine the manuscript and make it more clear the focus of the book.