The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
Viva La Fiesta!
We had 75 entries from our member writers to the First Line Fiesta, our competition to find the most appealing first line of a novel in progress. (Read some of the most famous first lines of all time).
The standard was very high with high-scoring entries mostly from our writers either now with agents or on second drafts, taking The Big Edit, poised on the brink of bagging agents and publishing contracts. But we had one or two surprises from our first drafters!
Voting has been one member, one vote, and a first past the post system. Given the range of lines and the quality of the prose, I was surprised to see clustered results around a few front runners.
A contest like this is a bit of a beauty parade. The lines that stand out most boldly will secure votes. And the contestants don't have the opportunity to impress their judges with their plans for world peace as with our Firestarter Competition in February for the best first chapter.
But a great first line...
How do you tell if your writing is sweet, or whether it sucks?
We get word-blind. Over the course of a couple of drafts, the word blindness can get worse. You're clinging to your darlings, but the story's changed, and they're possibly no longer on point. (Our enforced reading break in between drafts, and the astringent Editing course are the citrus you need in your writing diet, but even so, it takes a lot of bad parenting to know how to treat your beloved manuscript roughly for its own good.)
WhenI read a writer's work, I evaluate it very simply. Here's how:
1. There is nothing wrong with it. It looks clean and good. There are no typos, and the grammar is right. (Don't ever hit send to anyone before using Grammarly.) It's not backstory-heavy. It's not blighted with how he or she 'feels'. Each paragraph leads to the next and inevitably so.
2. It feels real. The characters are reasonably credible, feel true to life, and are not complete...
A Member's Story.
From the desk of Cate Guthleben.
How to Start Your Novel?
Some Ideas for Writing the First Line.
If the agent of change in the novel is a person and you’re telling the story as an outside observer.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald.
“Elmer Gantry was drunk.” Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis.
“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.” On The Road, Jack Kerouac.
If the agent of change is the narrator.
“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by a Mr Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.” Mark Twain.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before...
To the Battle!
The battle in the classics of Tolkien and others is often a bit of a let down.
There’s a long walk, a lot of fine talk, plenty of awe then either the human hero finds an exit and postpones the battle or there’s a divine intervention which crushes evil a tad unfairly I think.
So, we have a complete rout, or evil sneaks off. There’s not much in the way or real prolonged suffering, no lingering in the mud of the trenches here. But hey ho. We’ve all been surprised by our first punch and children milk-fed on reading books are no doubt the most sucker-punched of all. But we all know there’s no alternative without completely compromising the experience of wonderment.
Tolkien approaches the battle in short sentences. You will know one’s coming because his word count between full stops drops dramatically. This seems to me to prove that discretion really is the better part of valour.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff...
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