Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Nathan Writing Contest!

I stumbled onto this funny look at querying called The Slush Pile Experience. But slush-piles was yesterday's bloggerific post. Today we're talking writing!

In case you didn't know, it's that time of year... time for Nathan Bransford's 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge, in which you and now 1,171 others pit your first paragraph against each other for a battle of words royale! The prize? Glory, glorious glory! And a partial critique by Nathan Bransford (among other things). He's tweeting about it, in case you're a twit, and yes, I entered. Here's the first paragraph to my wip, as edited as I could make it with only my own brain to rely on:

Julia had two options: a dress with sleeves like something out of an eighties bridesmaid catalog, or the sexy, strapless dress she fell in love with before being marked by magic. The mark, very tatooish on her upper-arm, could lead to some less-than-special junior prom memories. Getting chewed out in front of her almost-boyfriend and the inevitable Disappointed in You speech were definite possibilities. Maybe she could keep it covered with her hand, just until Mom took the requisite pre-prom pictures? She wrapped her fingers around her arm, smothering the symbol that was currently slick and gritty with sunblock and sand. She checked out crystal figurines and beaded jewelry, casually one-armed on the Venice Beach boardwalk, just a girl who liked her own half-hug. Meanwhile a third option whispered through her mind: telling Mom the truth. The symbol appeared by itself. Because she was one of three girls alive who could join together like Justice Friends for some secret, as yet undisclosed reason. Yeah. That was the ticket to having her room ransacked and weeks of “talks” about saying no to drugs. She’d be rocking the bridesmaid dress before she did that.

Has anyone else tried to read through each and every entry? I admire agents now more than ever. My eyes were swimming before I got through the first two hundred. Nathan (may I call him Nathan? Sigh) has put up an update in case you haven't checked his site recently. Find it HERE

And now, because I'm in need of a little food, I leave you with a game: Comment with your prediction of how many entries Nathan will receive by the Thursday deadline, without going over. The winner gets to wear my ermine cloak and carry my jewel-encrusted scepter for the whole of one day. Good luck!!!!!


  1. That is an excellent first paragraph Diana. Immediately you pulled me into the world and I'm wanting more. Tattoo Magic Mark - very cool. Good luck. Can you believe how many people are entering. I'm with you - my eyes were burning after the first 20. My guess for the entries is 3000 - poor Nathan. He's awesome.

  2. Aw Mary, very sweet of you. My own analysis is that it's overly wordy; I need to remember to Keep It Simple Stupid. It's fun sharing though :)

    I didn't spot your entry but I saw a few regulars here on the Coaster and there are some phenomenal writers here. I'm in awe.

  3. I like the concept, but I think it's a little bulky for a single opening paragraph. I'd buy the book based on the back blurb and the anticipation generated from the first paragraph, though, so you have a good thing going.

    On the other hand, I don't think all stories showcase well with a single paragraph. The ones that start with dialogue either internal or not... just don't make the cut with a contest like this one. The beginning of the book has got to hook you, but that doesn't necessarily mean the first paragraph is the hottest, sexiest thing on the planet.

    I ended up going with a WIP over one of my completed manuscripts because of that. Apparently, I like to start with dialogue.

    I read through about four hundred... skimming. I was both impressed and depressed by the caliber of what I read. There are some really good writers out there.

    I'm guessing that there will be around 2,350 in the end.

    Thank you for reading that short story again. I just finished my rewrite, and your comments were perfect.

  4. Yes, Wendy, bulky is the perfect word for it. I'm trying to cram too much into the first paragraph, typical rookie move. Ha!

    I have nothing but praise for your first paragraph entry. I will be unequivocally stunned if you don't place. Wow, you read through four hundred entries?! My eyes, my bleeding eyes!

    Your guess is duly noted, and you're very welcome on the comments :)

  5. It is a little wordy, but I still like it. You can see my paragraph on my Literary girls blog - check it out please. I really want your opinion on it.

  6. Thanks Mary, and I don't mind at all that it's too wordy/bulky/boring/awful. It's my wip, as I said, and is a long way from being ready. I can be somewhat bohemian about my writing... truth, beautiful truth.

    I will zip over to your blog right away and let you know what I think :)

  7. Thanks so much for your comment Diana on my paragraph. With the bad writing that is spewing out of me lately I need the affirmation that I actually can write something good. I just need to keep reminding myself - Magic happens in the rewrite.

  8. I'm hooked by the concept in your paragraph. I love anything with magic in it.

    My guess about the contest is about 2,500 entries. I haven't been over there yet to read any, but it sounds like I won't get far.

    Thanks for following my blog. I've enjoyed reading your posts.

  9. heeeey Diana P!!!!! :)))))

    I didn't even know about this writing contest until I came over to visit you!!!! Thank you for sharing! And like the reader above me, I like everything with magic in it! And if something doesn't have magic in it yet.... I can always put magic in there, for it!!!! :)))))

  10. This contest sure is a quick lesson opening paragraphs isn't it? Puts us in the agent's shoes. The writer gets only a glance before we move on. What I'm skimming past is long, wordy ones, and I'm drawn to short, enigmatic ones (and I'm grossed out by the bloody ones, but that's just me.)

    I love your concept here, Diana, but I agree with my fellow commenters that it's bulky. Zero in on that magic mark. That's your hook. It's a great one.

  11. Hi C :) It's always lovely to see you here! I'm glad to have shared the contest with you, and I agree, magic is more fun :)

    Hi Anne, thank you as always for your thoughtful comments :) You're right, this contest is an excellent way to see what works and what doesn't. Mine doesn't, I agree, but thanks for the kind words about my hook :)