We are a community of writers dedicated to pushing, cheering, dragging, cajoling, bribing each other over the finishing line of 'The End'.
The purpose of The Novelry is to make sure that each and every one of our member's manuscripts is 100% safe at submission. This means putting it through its paces and many, many rounds of checks and fine balances most crucially, in the final stages at the Members Lodge.
Round after round of revision at the Members Lodge - based on the guidance given - means that manuscript will only be rejected because of an agent's personal peccadillo, and not because:
None of these will apply to one of our manuscripts.
We are men and women who have become comrades in ink. We turn to each other. We salute each other, we cheer, and yes, we do whinge a bit when the mood takes us. We like it that way.
We are about to celebrate the first anniversary of Kritikme and The Firestarter is our first competition.
The Firestarter asks members to submit the first 900 words of their novel at our Live Lodge. Everyone's a winner baby that's for sure. (That's no lie.) Because every entry gets reams of detailed critique from the The Novelry members.
But there must be a winner because we need to know what makes it so. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of literary agents and understand how if thirty great manuscripts are on your desk in a day, which is it that you choose to ask to read more of?
The Firestarter competition is an exercise in STORY.
The story has to be there; looming and irresistible from the opening lines.
It has to have you in its sights. That's hard to explain until you see it.
Submissions rolled in right until a quarter to midnight on the day of the deadline.
All of our members were invited to vote. One member, one vote. They were asked simply to choose the opening they would want to read more of first. That simple.
'Till Twilight Falls' by Kathy Brewis Dunn.
Kathy's novel opening achieved not only the most votes but many votes.
Reading this piece, I knew right away that I was in the safe hands of a very good writer.
Sergei, the first person we meet in the book, a security guard, is living, breathing and there's blood pumping around his brain. The story opening is startling, sure, but the writing's smarter than that; it's downplayed.
This is accomplished work. A death is shrugged off, rather than given the false fanfare beloved of TV, film and most fiction, and what's chilling is the truth of that. It rings so true, it rings silent. It's like the tolling of a bell for the end of an era.
How disposable we are. With incredible economy in a matter of sentences, Kathy Brewis Dunn lays a world before us; no sermonizing, just cleaning up.
It's so matter of fact. The sentences that really knocked the wind out of me were these:
'The ones who notice him at all, the ones who acknowledge him, they assume he envies them. He does not envy them.'
That's tight writing, yes, but it's a punch in the guts. This is fierce stuff served with an icepack. Kathy Brewis Dunn is here to revise our assumptions without making a big deal of it.
I almost hesitate to point out how masterfully she handles her material by referring to sentence length because it seems the least of it, which is in a way the point. Her bricklaying is immaculate.
All good writers make it look easy and Kathy Brewis Dunn has done that in her piece, but the opening stays with you.
The tender callousness, the realism of detail used. And of course the story unfolding itself before your eyes, not forced or manhandled by Ms Dunn but apparently with its very own deadly determination to reveal itself. I suspect its tail will thrash and that tail will be heavy, sharp and as fearsome as Ms Dunn's writing.
If I am Kathy Brewis Dunn's first reviewer, I will not be her last. I salute you Kathy, I not only take my hat off, I put my writer's cape down over the puddle (of blood) for you. You are a fine writer.
Thank you for reminding me that touching raw nerves and presenting readers with a story they can't take their eyes off is what it's all about. And thank you for reminding me that understatement succeeds where hubris fears to tread ;-)
A massive thank you to all who entered and all who voted. You made this Firestarter a combustible event. The energy and generosity each of you who entered and each of you who read and voted brought to this has been most affecting. Each and every entry has garnered heaps of feedback, detailed critique and encouragement. The Firestarter will be an annual event since as so many of you have observed, it concentrates the mind beautifully.
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