Monday, February 20, 2012

THE "POLISHED" PARAGRAPH CONTEST


Well folks, since this month’s “First Sentence Flash Contest” was such a success, writers have been contacting me to ask for more.

So I’m pleased to announce another writing contest, titled “The Polished Paragraph.”

Agents and editors encourage us to polish our work before submitting.

I’ve attended many writer’s conferences (SCBWI, Highlights Foundation Workshops, Rutgers One on One, Historical Novel Society International Conference and Cliff House Writers Writer’s Retreat) And every agent or editor, that ever there was, has told us they can tell when a manuscript is “NOT” ready to be submitted simply by reading the first paragraph.

Some even extend their sleuthing abilities to your query letter to determine the worthiness of your manuscript.

So with Roxanne Werner’s comments on your “opening line” in the last Storyteller Scroll contest, I hope by now you have revised it.

She also mentioned, “Don't feel the need to force everything plus the kitchen sink into that opening line. Give yourself a paragraph with a novel.”

With that in mind, this new contest will help you “polish” your first paragraph. And I will be assisting you to make your paragraph shine.

This contest is open to MG and YA writers in any genre. (Don’t worry PB writers. Next month it’s your turn J)

My affiliations are SCBWI, YALITCHAT, YA WONDERWRITERS, THE RED PEN MG WRITERS, CLIFF HOUSE WRITERS (MIXED LEVELS) and THE POETS’ GARAGE.

THE “WINNER” WILL RECEIVE A FULL FIRST CHAPTER CRITIQUE FROM ME.

  1. ****Make sure you are a follower of the Storyteller’s Scroll.
  2. ****Submit your first paragraph, title and genre in the comment section.
  3. ****Vote for the paragraph you think should receive the full chapter critique. 
  4. Ah-Ah-Ah! You can't vote for yourself.

The paragraph with the most votes wins the critique. It’s that easy. Free advice and a full chapter critique for some lucky writer.

Contest starts Wednesday, February 22nd  at NOON and ends Tuesday, February 28th  at NOON. Winner announced on the 29th. Maybe this leap year will bring good luck to one of you. J

26 comments:

  1. A Ghastly, Ghostly Dare - MG

    My knucklehead friends, Joey and Tommy Flynn, dared me to enter the old mansion at the top of the Deadend Hill. Anyone in their right mind knows to stay away from that creepy place. For starters, if the faded warning sign with the skull and crossbones at the bottom of the dark, winding road doesn’t scare the poop out of you, the wispy tangled mosses that droop from dead gnarly tree branches, like scary witch’s hair will.

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  2. Caszia:

    Ghost stories are big hits with MG kids, and with a boy protagonist, you’ll score twice. Editors and agents are looking for MG boy stories now. And I love your title. It’s clear and concise and tells the reader what the story will be about.

    My first suggestion is to beware of excessive adjective use. Some writers think the more the merrier for a better picture in the reader’s mind, when in fact the opposite is true. Try to pare your adjectives down to one “strong” word. In your sample above, you can eliminate “wispy” because the image of tangled witch’s hair is strong enough. Also, where else would branches grow? “Tree” is understood and gnarly describes the dead tree without using the word “dead.”

    I’d also suggest changing Deadend Hill to Dead End Hill. (a stronger image) “Their” is incorrect in this instance and should be interchanged with “his or her.” Also, to tighten the manuscript eliminate “the warning sign with the.” Skull and crossbones implies “warning.”

    One last thing. I don’t think “knucklehead” is a modern term today’s boys would use. Try to find a more “relevant” term.

    Good luck,
    Gayle

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  3. The Case of the Trailblazing Thief - MG

    Lucas Holcomb longed to be a cowboy, but the closest he got to riding the range was in the back of Sparky’s chuck wagon. The advertisement for the job in the Gulch City Gazette said, ‘Extra hands needed for the Eldorado Cattle Company. Must be good with irons in the fire.’ Lucas dreamt of roping big steers and branding them with long irons. But at twelve, the only position he could fill was cook’s assistant and the only fire irons he ended up handling were the giant fry pans Sparky used to cook the cowboy’s eggs and grits.

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  4. The Case of the Trailblazing Thief - MG



    Lucas Holcomb longed to be a cowboy for his whole life, all twelve years of it. When the advertisement in the Gulch City Gazette said, ‘Extra hands needed for the Eldorado Cattle Company. Must be good with irons in the fire,’ Lucas dreamt of roping big steers and branding them with long irons. But the closest he got to riding the range was in the back of Sparky’s chuck wagon and the only irons he ended up handling were the giant fry pans Sparky used to cook the cowboy’s eggs and grits.

    Dreamwriter:

    Sounds like something is going to happen, where Lucas saves the day with those fry pans. Cowboys – a good topic for MG boys. Old-fashioned adventure.

    I’ve rearranged the wording because you said the same thing in two different places about Lucas not getting what he thought he’d signed up for. This way, they are both in a compound sentence at the end of the paragraph.

    Good solid start.

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  5. Something is off with this time stamp. It's almost 2 o'clock in the afternoon and it says it's still in the AM.

    Oh well, as long as the posts get through.

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  6. The Incredible Misadventures of Avery Mann - MG Fantasy

    The first sign of trouble should have been my disaster-free morning. My six older brothers didn’t barge into my room at the crack of dawn and attack me with cans of shaving cream. The showerhead didn’t shoot off the wall and break my nose. Mom and Dad didn’t get into a freak accident with an ice cream truck while rushing me to the emergency room for stitches. All of which happened a year ago, when I spent most of my tenth birthday in the hospital.

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  7. Worth a shot to enter--just stumbled upon your blog :)

    An Absence of Light (YA sci-fi)

    The dark rind of dried blood wasn’t coming out from under my fingernails no matter how hard I scrubbed. I finally grabbed a paper towel and turned off the faucet. I used the same towel to push open the graffiti-coated door.

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  8. Joseph:

    The Incredible Misadventures of Avery Mann - MG Fantasy



    The first sign of trouble should have been my disaster-free morning.

    What trouble? Who is speaking? It doesn’t really have a hook that grabs you. Reader can’t tell in the MC is male or female. No indication of age or setting. It’s just a statement that frankly sounds like an oxymoron.

    I’d try a more unique opening. At the end of my comments I’m going to give you a suggested opening and you are free to use all of it, part of it or none of it. ☺

    My six older brothers didn’t barge into my room at the crack of dawn and attack me with cans of shaving cream. The showerhead didn’t shoot off the wall and break my nose.

    The way this is worded it makes it sound like this happens everyday. It doesn’t right? And wouldn't he be attacked with the cream and not the cans?

    Mom and Dad didn’t get into a freak accident with an ice cream truck while rushing me to the emergency room for stitches. All of which happened a year ago, when I spent most of my tenth birthday in the hospital.

    Why make this a flashback? Start with it as the beginning of your story.

    Try this:

    It doesn’t pay to be the youngest brother in the ___________family. When it comes to attracting trouble, I, _________ ___________, am a supermagnet.

    Reader can identify with character immediately.

    I even keep my bedroom door locked, but it doesn’t matter. Reader wants to know why the bedroom door is locked.

    Every morning one of my six brothers manages to get in. Sometimes they pick the lock, other times they swipe Mom’s credit card between the lock and the frame. One time, my oldest brother tiptoed barefoot all the way across the porch roof, in the snow, just to sneak in through my window.

    It doesn’t matter how they get in. The results are always the same. I get a puss full of shaving cream. Sometimes it at 6:00 AM. Other times it’s closer to 2:00. It depends which brother is doing the sneaking.

    I mean how many ten year olds get their nose busted by a showerhead that shoots off the wall when the water’s turned on? And then lying in the backseat with gauze wadded up their bleeding nose lands on the floor hump, smashing it again against the back of his or her Dad’s seat when he gets into a freak accident with an ice cream truck. It’s a good thing he’s rushing me to the emergency room for stitiches.

    Can my life get any worse? You bet it can……..



    Good luck revising. I hope I’ve given you something to think about. :)

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  9. Gayle,

    Thanks for your comments. I'll keep them in mind as I work on revisions.

    Best Wishes,
    Joseph

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  10. Meradeth:

    This is very good IMO. I couldn't find much to suggest to make this sparkle more than it already does, just a few suggestions to delete and/or add.

    I can’t tell whether the MC is a male or female and by adding “ragged” to indicate a male or “polished” to indicate a female before nails might make the first sentence stronger.

    I also think you can tighten the second and third sentences by combining them into one. See suggestion.

    And lastly, by changing “and” to “to” it lets the reader know that the motion is intentional and is perhaps trying to hide fingerprints.

    Other than that, great paragraph.

    Best,
    Gayle

    An Absence of Light (YA sci-fi)



    The dark rind of dried blood wasn’t coming out from under my [ragged/polished] fingernails no matter how hard I scrubbed. I finally grabbed a paper towel (and Delete) to turn off the faucet and (I used the same towel to Delete) push open the graffiti-coated door.

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  11. Thanks so much Gayle! I really like your comments--they are spot on!

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  12. Everyone is welcomed. That's what helping each other is all about. Don't forget to vote for the paragraph that should get the full chapter critique.

    Thanks for entering.

    Gayle

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  13. Thanks for reminding me, Gayle. I think the YA Sci/Fi one should win the chapter critique. If I were reading the whole novel I'd be intrigued.

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  14. Hi, I came across your blog, while searching for Writer's resources blogs. Would like to give the contest a shot. :)

    Reaper's novice (YA dark fantasy with some Sci-fi elements)

    My soul belongs to the Grim Reaper. Most nineteen year olds girls I know are in university, engaged to be married or bouncing a baby on their hip. Not me. I collect souls for a living.

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  15. Dear Cecelia:

    Reaper's Novice (YA dark fantasy with some Sci-fi elements)



    Most nineteen year olds girls I know are in university, engaged to be married or bouncing a baby on their hip. Not me. I collect souls for the Grim Reaper. My soul belongs to him.



    This is an intriguing first paragraph. It’s well-structured and the topic is controversial, however, it is not unique. I’d try to punch up the paragraph by putting the Grim Reaper sentence last. That way, the reader knows the MC is a 19 yr. old girl and she is very unlike other girls her age. The reason why smacks you at the end of the paragraph, which encourages the reader to continue, wanting to know how she got roped into collecting souls for Death.

    I also would consider making the MC 17. Nineteen is too old to be the MC of a young adult novel, unless you are aiming for the new older YA genre. Since not all editors seek the older YA, it would be a much easier fix to change her age.

    Happy Revising,
    Gayle

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    Replies
    1. Hi Gayle,
      Thanks so much for the comments. I have to admit the paragraph sounds more catchy with Grim's sentence at the end. :) Oh,I hadn't thought about new older YA. I'll definitely consider changing the age. :) Thanks again!
      Cecilia

      Delete
  16. Hi :) My story starts with 3 sentences. I've included a bit more, feel free to consider for the crit whatever you feel makes a complete paragraph. I thank you for your time. :) Abigail

    The Summer of Secrets and One Big Lie - YA

    I owe the best summer of my life to a bee. A dead bee. It was the summer of secrets and one big lie.

    Secret #1: I’ve never been to sleep away camp. Ever.

    “Sleepaway camp is for children with parents who don’t want to spend time with them,” my Mom huffed. I dragged my bulging suitcase behind me. But I wasn’t going to dare complain about its weight. I now had 2 ½ months ahead of me in the beautiful Berkshires at the most exclusive drama camp in the Northeast as a junior camp counselor. I still didn’t know how I’d managed to get so lucky, but I wasn’t going to question the Fates.

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  17. I don't have anything to enter just now, but great contest--I'll tweet! :) Good luck everyone.

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  18. Abigail:

    The Summer of Secrets and One Big Lie - YA 




    This sounds like a logline and you might have to work to make it fit more concisely with the rest of the paragraph or again I might suggest you use it in your query and not as the first sentence of the novel.

    I owe the best summer of my life to a DEAD bee.

    I combined the first two sentences to make a stronger one.

    I wasn’t going to dare complain about THE BULGING SUITCASE BEHIND ME. I had 2 and one-half months ahead of me in the beautiful Berkshires(.) I still DON’T know how I’d managed to get so lucky TO BE CHOSEN as a junior camp counselor at the most exclusive drama camp in the Northeast, but I wasn’t going to question the Fates.

    I also would not mention the whole lack of experience at a sleep away camp. It makes the MC sound more NG than YA. H ope you find my suggestions useful.
    Happy Revising.
    Gayle

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  19. I vote for The Summer of Secrets and One Big Lie - YA. Sounds like it would be a great story, and full of humour too. :)

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  20. I'll vote for the Reaper's Novice... b/c it's a very intriguing premise.

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  21. I vote for An Absence of Light. The blood in the first line makes it sound scary.

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  22. I vote for The Case of the Trailblazing Thief. Right from the start it is fast paced and has "boy book" appeal for MG readers. :)

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  23. I'm torn between Absence of Light and Trailblazer's Thief. Ooh, Reaper's Novice sounds awesome too. OK, I'm having a tough time choosing. Based solely on personal preference, I guess I'll choose Reaper's Novice.

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