Monday, October 19, 2009

Paragraphs & Premise: Starting Your Novel

This past week, Agent Extraordinaire Nathan Bransford wrapped up a First Paragraph Contest on his blog!

He received over 2100 aspiring authors' first paragraphs, read them all, went blind, got Lasik, came back, and chose the top few paragraphs that really spoke to him, and finally, one glorious winner.

The best part of the contest, is that today he told us why he chose the paragraphs he did, and why they jumped out at him from the contest Slush Pile. Go check it out! Not only can you read the paragraphs from the finalists, but you get Nathan's commentary free of charge on why they were so awesome. Also, if you go back to the Original Post, (and like a challenge), you can read each and every one of the entries he received to see what works for you in a first paragraph and what doesn't.

What a great opportunity for us to learn a) what the slush is REALLY like (only this slush comes soley from smarty pants blog readers who have a leg up), and b) what makes a truly great opening. I learned a lot from reading what other people did about my own preferences and how to make my opening even sharper.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, last week I was one of two runners-up in the Guide to Literary Agents' Blog "Worst Storyline Ever Contest." LOL! I know, I know. I'm the best at being the worst. I'll take it ;)!

The best part is, you can check out the hilarious story premise that took the cake, as well as the fantastic finalists.

Go on over. You know you want to!

What makes a good premise or start to a book in your minds? Are there any books on your shelf that grabbed you? What made them special?


Abby said...

Woohoo! Your storyline totally rocks! Thanks for the laugh!

Scott said...

I'm all over the place with my reading, so answering your question is a wee bit difficult.

I love books about books and/or writing. Fictional books, not insturctional books. I love when the main character is a writer and the author explores the everyday experience.

I love when an author takes a general idea (greek gods) and updates it (living in a cramped townhome in NYC, their powers fading, and Aprhodite doing phone . . .) brilliantly - gods behaving badly by marie phillips.

As for starts . . . it all depends on the book and my patience level. I've read a few really brilliant books that started out so slowly it was agonizing. Root canals are more fun then the openings of those books . . . and yet they are some of my favorite books of all time.

So, as long as the cover + title + interesting premise catches my eye, then I'm pretty happy.

I'm off to check out your brilliance.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

After reading the finalists, I realized just how subjective it is. I didn't really like any of them. My other writer friends felt the same way.

Rebecca Knight said...

Abby: LOL! Any time!

Scott: I'm like that, too. I find that I'm willing to stick it out if it's slow, but the premise has got me by the collar. I'll have to check out Gods Behaving Badly now! ;)

Stina: It really is. I had three of the final 10 that I loved with a fiery passion. So there you have it! :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Ha! Loved your storyline!

I agree about subjectivity. There were a few that didn't do anything for me at all. C'est la vie!

SJDuvall said...

After farting a rainbow?! Hahaha, my laugh of the day.

As for Gods Behaving Badly, loved it. Just had to second the praise. :)


Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks, guys ;)! I amused myself, so there you go.

Also, now Gods Behaving Badly is on my reading list for sure! Hooray for word of mouth!

This is fascinating about people's takes on the first paragraph finalists. Kind of makes you feel better about the agenting process doesn't it? If we're turned down somewhere, you know there is someone else who will love your writing to pieces :).

Shelli said...

it goes to show that it is right place right time and so hard to predict

Lisa and Laura said...

SO subjective. Some of the winners I really liked, but there were others that I thought were overlooked. The same thing happens in the Secret Agent contest. I guess it just depends on what you're looking for.