Friday, January 22, 2010


If you received an entry number, you're in. Like Flint! So, before I post the entries, here's a little preview of what's expected from you, my glorious readers and writers.

When we began this blog, we started at the beginning — the beginning of your story. That's where it all starts. And the beginning is, perhaps, the most important writing you will do in the entire manuscript. You may have written 80,000 words, but if those first 100 aren't the best you can make them, your chances of success are drastically reduced.

If done well, a great beginning hooks the agent, it hooks the publisher. Beyond that, it hooks the reader when they open your published masterpiece in the bookstore or the library. And they read your golden words. From the very first ones to the wonderful ending. And they love the journey you've taken them on. But that journey into your world begins with those first lines. If they're not right, they jump ship and put the book back on the shelf. Obviously, mastering this pesky aspect of writing is critical.

Let's start with a couple of examples of what we're talking about. In A Teacher's Funeral, Richard Peck begins with this line: "If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it." Now we want to know more. Why did the teacher die? How did it happen? We're interested.

In Feed, M.T. Anderson gives us another great first line with these words: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." Really? Wow! How did you get there? What was it like? We want to hear about it.

Finally, Neil Gaiman attracts our interest when he brings us into his story, The Graveyard Book with this great opening: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

There are many more examples of great opening lines. Here's a SITE you can visit to read more.

So now that we're all on the same page, so to speak, let's talk a bit about how this adventure is going to play out. First of all, every writer who submitted an entry deserves good feedback on their work from each of us. Try to comment on as many as you can. You'll need to read them all in order to place your very important vote. Please keep in mind that the writers have put their work in your hands for judgement. It's important to remember that these are their babies, and they're very protective of them. Harsh words do not set well. We are sensitive.

Here are a few suggestions for your comments:

1. Be honest.
2. At the same time, try not to be entirely negative or hurtful.
3. Try to point out any weakness you see, as well as suggestions for improvement.
4. At the same time, mention any strong points, what you liked about it.

Some aspects you may wish to comment on include:

1. The voice (keep the genre in mind when you evaluate)
2. Sentence structure
3. Grammar
4. Whether you would read more

NOTE: I will remove any comments that appear to be less than constructive criticism.

Next, while you're reading this, I will assemble and post the first ten openings that were submitted. All entries will end up being posted with a separate POLLING gadget for each set of ten. That will give us five voting booths. Comments and voting will continue until Sunday, January 24 at 11:59 pm CST. Please be sure to cast a vote for your favorite in each group of ten by that time.

After that, the top two in each of the five groups will be posted with a new voting booth. Read through them, leave new comments, and cast your vote. We will have a first place winner (determined by the highest number of votes) and an honorable mention (second highest).

It's hopeful the comments and suggestions will be more valuable than the prize, so if you don't win, don't beat yourself up. There will be 48 other people in your parade. (I had to think about that number for a little while.)

Finally, if you have any questions or comments, hit that comment thingy below.

Good luck to all!


  1. This sounds like so much fun. I love your voting method. Fantastic! I can't wait to read the posts.

  2. Thanks, Trish. Glad to have you with us. I'm going to start posting the first ten in just a few minutes.

  3. Can't wait to get through these all. Due to limited time, I'm going to make sure to read and vote today, then come back and comment later.


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