Thursday, June 17, 2010

34 Line-by-line Novel Opening Contest: Final 100 Entries

As promised, here are the entries in the first round of our Line-by-Line contest. Literary Agent Natalie Fischer is judging these now, and the top 75 entries will be announced on 6/24/10 and the lucky winners will be asked to submit the second line. In the meantime, please post your comments, encouragement, and suggestions for the following brave writers! And keep your comments kind, respectful, and snarkless.

#1 Kat Zhang
Adie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath.

#2 Creepy Query Girl
‘How do you punish someone who’s already dead?’

#3 Pam Harris
"It's not that I'm ugly or anything."

#4 JayceeKaycee
The shriek of my cell phone in the quiet classroom meant only one thing: the killer had found us again.

#5 Natalie Aguirre
“You don’t know what it’s like not knowing if you’re like your real mom or dad,” Jasmine said.

#6 Christine
Mary Kate Stewart secretly hoped that her Calculus teacher would get hit by a taco truck.

#7 Hanna C. Howard
I am told it is wonderful to be beautiful.

#8 Stina Lindenblatt
It was like leaping off a ten-meter platform when you’re terrified of heights.

#9 Vicki Tremper
“All cockroaches step forward,” a voice barked.

#10 Robyn Campbell
Anna threw open the barn door and smiled at Fancy, who stamped her foot and stuck her head over the stall opening.

#11 L.J. Boldyrev
There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are.

#12 Marquita Hockaday
I’m in hell.

#13 Sangay Glass
Yeah, it was gross, but with only seconds to spare Aleksandra really had no choice.

#14 cchant
My hope of living a normal life in Lindenville faded faster than my fifteen dollar jeans the moment I got to the school bus stop.

#15 Dunnes in UK
Ellen’s forehead cracked painfully against the window as her Aunt’s ancient pick-up hit a huge hole in the questionable country road, waking her from the most bizarre dream.

#16 Janice
Ann stood in the foyer, pulling off her gloves and then her coat, and considered how little the war had changed things at home.

#17 Courtney Lowe
"Screams ripped me from sleep."

#18 Jenn Fitzgerald
Madame Bhut’s Finishing School in the town of Whut was known across Amalthea as a respectable place to send your daughter if you were hoping to marry her to a gentleman; not for producing evil queens with ideas of world domination.

#19 Nicole Zoltack
My papers scattered everywhere, and my books fell with a loud thud.

#20 Heather
Amidst the never-ending fires and screams of defiant terror, Abby collapsed to the ground, feet twisting inward, eyes unwilling to stay open, and desperately wishing to pass out.

#21 Buffy Andrews
I have a secret.

#22 Margay
"I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day."

#23 Michele Shaw
It was a knock--the harmless rap of knuckles against wood--that broke open my wounds.

#24 Natalie C. Markey
Water churned all around like a water sprout encasing me in a prison.

#25 C David
The old van in the woods had been rooted in middle school lore since ages past.

#26 jamilamosi
My hands went numb as the officer gently told me the news.

#27 salarsenッ 
The test began like all the rest, although the dead corpse look was different.

#28 Cambria Dillon
Whoever said cell phones made life easier was full of BS.

#29 Leah Odze Epstein
The day my parents tricked Rachel into signing herself into the "Program," they tricked me, too, bringing me with them as a decoy.

#30 Ebyss
Ellyssa, a.k.a. Subject 62, sprinted through the dark alley after escaping from her long-term captors who she’d thought of as family for eighteen years.

#31 Holly Dodson
Mandy Samkirk had no warning of the life-changing events about to unfold; only the lingering worry from a recurring dream that nagged at her thoughts.

#32 Sue Ford
I can’t believe I found you!

#33 Heather Trent Beers
The last day of fifth grade should mark the beginning of a fun-filled summer for a girl.

#34 amongdahlias
Riding to school with Max Holden is only slightly less traumatizing than riding the big yellow bus.

#35 Kristi Helvig
I waited for her behind a large oak tree.

#36 A. Grey
Life is so much easier without underwear.

#37 Bonnie Staring
He just didn't get it.

#38 Julie Musil
This day is going to suck.

#39 Heather Kelly
Lucky had been living life just fine, until the universe threw him a curveball.

#40 Carol Riggs way.

#41 Valerie
I died before I was even born.

#42 Jess
Unfortunately for the Fredalia Tigers, Regina Brinkwell chose a crucial moment during the last soccer game of the season to lick her lips.

#43 Angela Ackerman
When Mom and Dad started throwing around the D word, I never imagined an old folk’s home would become my Post Divorce Relocation.

#44 Christine
Was he following her, or was she being paranoid?

#45 Tara
My name is Rufus William Gunther Chase, but people who know me call me Spoon.

#46 CL
What kind of animal sounds like a woman singing?

#47 Margaret Nichols
The bonfire in the middle of the grand plaza of New Tikal sent sparks up to greet the low-hanging stars; the stars Mau B'ah-Pakal hoped were still speaking to him, because no one else was.

#48 Jillian Audrey
I was in the kitchen flipping blueberry pancakes on the griddle when I saw her for the first time.

#49 bfav
"Cut it out," shouted Rett Adams, regretting the ridiculous decision to open his mouth.

#50 Traci Van Wagoner
My hand hovered over the latch, my stomach churning.

#51 Chris
He stretched as far as he could, if he extended his chin up any higher he would pull a muscle or bust a blood vessel in his neck, he had heard of that happening once from someone on Facebook, or maybe it was MySpace, he wasn’t sure.

#52 Marilyn Hilton
If you're marked for trouble, it will trail you like a homeless dog, looking and acting like love but smelling like the shady bend of the river.

#53 Stephanie S.
Without a word, the guards brought her in, hard hands shoving her forward as they closed the door behind them.

#54 shanini3
There was no mistaking the darkness on the eastern horizon; they were coming.

#55 Melissa Gill
The truck hit Milo.

#56 Anonymous
I picked up the scissors.

#57 Sheila
Jacob shook the bamboo bars of his cage, but they held fast against his skinny arms.

#58 Tracy
Dearest Mother;
I know you’ve been wanting to know the latest gossip from this end of the underworld, but the truth is, that there hasn’t been much going on since his Evil Lordship succumbed to death by piano.

 #59 JD Spikes
It wasn't the first time a good idea had come back to bite me in the ass, but i was afraid it might be the last.

#60 authorwithin
The cries from a flight of ravens echoed through the forest as they struggled to escape from the trees behind me.

#61 Ara Burklund
"Homo sapiens sluttiwhen drunkus--the subspecies to which I apparently belong."

#62 Liz
Freedom is feeling free, and separate ain’t equal, no matter what the law says.

#63 brenda
If this were a movie, you'd be hearing Elvis music right now, the soundtrack to my life.

#64 Susan Bradley
All my crime books stated to never go inside and to call the police from a neighbor’s house, but I went in anyway.

#65 Suzanne Lilly
Jynx first found out about her father’s secret life by accident.

#66 Christine
Dragons are actually more curious than cats.

#67 shelley
"I'm never getting out of here."

#68 shelley
"Butch Burd's pros and cons for buying the pony car."

#69 Natalie Hyde
Celia never meant to lie.

#70 Amanda P.
Whispers of an outsider’s arrival have been flying between the mouths and ears of the Forsaken all day.

#71 mshatch
For Lucy, it began with a package; a small, unobtrusive, brown-paper wrapped package.

#72 PaigeC
We stood side by side in the dark, me holding a pack of matches, my best friend holding the gas can.

#73 Angela Ackerman
Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that’s how they looked the day they died.

#74 jrmosher
Artificial lights brightened beneath the protective red dome, giving the illusion of morning over the campus of Red Cloak School.

#75 Judi Gardiner
I looked down at my white knuckles that clutched the journal.

#76 Deb
Crowded, loud, annoying.

#77 JD Spikes
There are concepts we believe in even though they can’t be seen because proof that they exist surrounds us every day.

#78 Kelly Hashway
I’d heard of signs of the apocalypse, but I didn’t know that one of them was a crazy guy wandering out of a forest and into my favorite hangout.

#79 Renee Pace
I am suffocating inside my plastic lined steel barred cage; dying with the thickening silence and quiet sobbing coming from the other room.

#80 Buffy Andrews
The man shook violently.

#81 Carol Riggs
Day #236: Status log…Dark Troy emerges from the rest station, yet finds himself still stranded in the High Desert with the zombie villagers.

#82 mumfusa
Riley Razer has issues and they’re not minor.

#83 M
Monday morning @ Dalton Middle School,
kids dart on their way to class or
bunch together with early gossip.

#84 Hmath
"Damn sanctions shot my schedule to hell.”

#85 Angela Townsend
Sassy Smit was seven years old the afternoon she found Leroy Jebber dead.

#86 Alison Wells
First off, I just want to say I did not invite the aliens to drop into my backyard.

#87 Angela Townsend
Gloomy shadows crept across the tired oak floor, stealing what little light peered in through a set of stained glass windows.

#88 Bonnie Staring
I stared at the smoke drifting up from Erika’s fingertips.

#89 ann
As we follow Jax in the dark up the wide stone steps to the library, I feel like the marble lions on either side are somehow watching and will keep us safe, no matter what.

#90 Emily Casey
Ghosts can be so rude sometimes

#91 Jennifer
Don’t let them lock you in the closet, Nancy!

#92 andyland

"Shit, I may as well be dead," my mother said the day I killed her.

#93 Jenn
Once Upon A Time, (notice the capital letters) there lived a king and queen of a quaint little country that used to be vast and plentiful, although much of it was sold off to cover the king’s gambling debts as well as the queen’s fondness for golden rosebushes.

#94 Melissa Hed
Angela Fortunata woke up with a thump and a whack.

#95 Stefanie
The newspapers all said it was an accident.

#96 Authoress
The warm rain spattered Eric’s face and dripped from his eyebrows and nose.

#97 Annie McElfresh
Life lines.

#98 Authoress
Kate Raddish lived on an island and could not swim, which made her an anomaly from the start.

#99 Jordyn
After high school, we were going to move to Austin.

#100 Jordyn
In seventh grade math they taught us that a triangle is the sturdiest shape, stronger than rectangles or pentagons or anything else.


  1. WOW! These are really awesome first lines. And they're all so different! You have quite a variety here. Congrats to everyone and good luck to those who move onto round 2. What fun:)

  2. I can safely say that Natalie is going to have a tough time choosing the winners! These are some really AWESOME first lines!!

  3. Good job everyone! Great lines. It is fun to see the variety.

  4. #15 I need to know what that dream was about. Does the dream foreshadow the story? Or is the story all a dream? You can always have a wee bit more fun with your aunt than you can with your parents. This is bound to be an adventure!!!

  5. Lots of great first lines!! I don't envy the person who has to sort through them :)

  6. Ooh, the lines are all so interesting and diverse. This is a great contest to enter and to learn from. ";-)

  7. Already off to a great start. So many provocative lines! It's so instructive to go through them all and learn from the ones that really jump out at you.

  8. There are so many great first lines that make me want to read more. It's interesting to see the different ways people have approached it.

    I don't know how Natalie is going to keep narrowing them down.

  9. Thanks for this awesome contest! There are so absolutely intriguing first lines in there!- I wouldn't want to have to judge either. lol. Good luck everybody!

  10. i love the tone of this one:

    #11 L.J. Boldyrev
    There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are.

  11. Great entries everyone, great variety! No one's done this yet, but I'll (be long-winded and) stick my neck out to give some critique-group-type feedback on some entries. I have to do it in 2 parts since it's long:

    #24: Water churned all around like a water sprout encasing me in a prison.

    --Do you mean spout or sprite? Typo? Still, this a nice image, with water churning and encasing someone, imprisoning them.

    #27: The test began like all the rest, although the dead corpse look was different.

    --This is nicely original, although it has a rhyming element that's slightly distracting (test, rest).

    #52: If you're marked for trouble, it will trail you like a homeless dog, looking and acting like love but smelling like the shady bend of the river.

    --I'm not sure what the shady bend of a river smells like, whether it's supposed to be a bad or a good smell (tho I assume bad). This dilutes the comparison cuz it's ambiguous. On the whole, this is a great line, and the homeless dog and "looking and acting like love" really work.

    #57: Jacob shook the bamboo bars of his cage, but they held fast against his skinny arms.

    --Technically, Jacob isn't holding the bars with his arms--he's shaking them with his fists or hands. My interest is caught though, to know why he's in a cage, and why bamboo.

    #59: It wasn't the first time a good idea had come back to bite me in the ass, but i was afraid it might be the last.

    --Typo, i not capped; easily fixed. Catches interest by wondering what the "good idea" is and how it went so wrong.

    #64: All my crime books stated to never go inside and to call the police from a neighbor’s house, but I went in anyway.

    --Intriguing line. It could just be me, but "my" crime books threw me at first, thinking the character was a writer who wrote these books. Are they really a possession instead? Also, you split your infinitive (to be verb: "to never go"), easily fixable to "never to go." This may not be a big deal since the narration is from the character's viewpoint and most people don't speak or think in proper English.

  12. My critique-group-like comments continued:

    #74: Artificial lights brightened beneath the protective red dome, giving the illusion of morning over the campus of Red Cloak School.

    --Nicely lyrical, altho there's a bit of an "echo" with the red repeated in the same sentence.

    #75: I looked down at my white knuckles that clutched the journal.

    --This sets up good tension right off (hi, Judi!), but technically it's not someone's knuckles that clutch, it's his/her fingers or hands. Perhaps fixable if you inserted "as I" (as I clutched the journal) so it's the person doing the clutching instead of the knuckles.

    #79: I am suffocating inside my plastic lined steel barred cage; dying with the thickening silence and quiet sobbing coming from the other room.

    --Good mystery; we wanna know what's going on. A technicality though in that if you're hearing quiet sobbing, then there wouldn't be thick silence. "Plastic lined steel barred cage" feels like a bit of a mouthful, too. Plastic-lined would be hyphenated because those adjectives are dependent upon one another to describe cage. Also steel-barred.

    #80: The man shook violently.

    --We definitely want to know why this man is shaking so hard; you've created immediate interest, but a flag goes up when I see adverbs (cuz I used to overdo them all the time! now my problem is over-adjective-ing). Could you sub a phrase that is more unique? Not shaking like a leaf--that's a cliche--but a figure of speech or some more colorful way. We wanna hear his teeth rattling, see his hands trembling, watch his chin quiver. But perhaps you describe all that with your next sentence, so this may be a premature comment!

    Those are my critiques, hopefully not discouraging. Just my opinion!

    The ones--ignoring my own, cuz I'm biased one way or another--I think are very original and immediately compelling: #1, #6, #11, #18, #61, #73, #92, #93.

    Best of luck, everyone!
    Carol Riggs

  13. Impressive list. Great contest. Good luck to Natalie deciding.

  14. My goodness! Sheesh. I fear my To Be Read list is going to be out of control when these people are published!!

  15. Great entries! Good luck everyone! And thank you gals for doing this!

  16. Some of the other entries I instantly like are 8, 11, 27, 30, 65, 71, 72, 85, 95.

    Well done, everyone. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  17. I saw two people commented on liking mine. Just wanted to say thank you! :) And congrats to all and good luck!

  18. L.J. Boldyrev #11... I REALLY want to read your book. REALLY. :)

    A few others I like are:

    #22 Good pull, because I both want to know the MC's name and why it would get them in trouble.

    #35 I'm a sucker for oak trees so this just paints a great picture for me and makes me want to know more.

    #45 Names can make or break something for me, a great combo like this is irresistible for me. Spoon? Awesome.

    #59 This sounds like a slice of my life, which immediately establishes a kinship with the characters even though I haven't met them yet. Who HASN'T thought something along these lines?

    #86 I love the voice already. Just stating the fact, smart-assed in the best way for me.

    #93 I'm a total sucker for fairy tales, and retellings and new takes on the fairy tale archetype. Any kingdom with a gambling king and a queen obsessed with golden rose bushes is one I'd like to visit.

  19. Well done all to entering. These are some fantastic first lines! I've picked my favorites (so hard to choose!) and will be watching to see which ones move up to the next round.

    What a fun contest! Way to go Kidlit!

  20. Rude ghosts! That book sounds hilarious. Love it : )

  21. Wow, some REALLY awesome stuff there. Great contest.

  22. Wow, there's so many great ones. I'd have a hard time picking just 75. And the next round isn't going to be any easier.

    Can't wait to see the second sentences. :)

  23. These are some amazing first lines. Good job everyone!

  24. I wanted to pop on and say grats to everyone, and good luck.

  25. I have to agree with everyone... I don't envy Natalie her task! There are so many great first lines here. What I really can't wait to see, though, is what happens with those that might be considered less of an instant Wow yet still good enough to make the cut. Will the snap of a second line push them ahead of the pack? It will be very interesting, IMHO. Now, to make a list of my faves :)

    And Carol Riggs, your critique-group-like feedback was very tastefully done. Good insight.

    Best of luck, Everyone!! Thanks, again, Marissa and Martina~

  26. I like sooooo many of these! And I'm so flattered some of you liked mine--thanks! Although I could list another huge batch I'd need to read the second sentence before deciding, my top 20 (like Carol, above, not including my own) were entries 1, 6, 9, 11, 18, 21, 28, 36, 41, 45, 54, 56, 58, 66, 72, 76, 90, 93, 95, and 97. Great job, everyone!

  27. Very nicely done. It's so easy to see the genres and target ages of so many of these.

    SOME of my favourites were: 2, 9, 11, 36, 54, 66, 86

    Great work everyone. :)

  28. Huge thanks to Martina and Marissa for running this contest!!!

    I know I already listed my favorites, but I love all the notes given above on specific entries! I wish I had time to go through each entry and say why I did or didn't choose it as a pick, but I've been thinking about the first lines all afternoon, realizing there were a few categories I could group them into that might help on a critique-groupish-take-it-or-leave-it level for those interested in feedback.

    That said, I'm looking forward to seeing more notes here, since personally, whenever I hear something twice about my work, I realize it deserves special attention. Anyway, in a spirit of love and constructive criticism, here's my .02:

    *Starts with someone waking up and/or mentioning a dream (ed/agent pet peeve): 15, 17, 31, 94.

    *Word choice/tone might be too old for main character/audience: 33, 34, 85.

    *Wanted to see more tension: 96, 99, 100.

    *Intriguing but had to reread wording: 4, 14, 52, 55, 64, 68, 77.

    *Unsure I wanted to read about this character (too scary, wanted them to be more exceptional, etc.): 2, 3, 7, 69 (p.s. my own entry probably falls into this category for a lot of people).

    *Solid work, but I'm not the target audience; i.e., probably the next reader's favorite (the most über-subjective of my already subjective categories): 5, 10, 16, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 39, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 57, 59, 60, 62, 65 70, 73, 74, 79, 81, 83, 84, 87, 89, 92.

    *Good but I needed more info (my anxious-to-see-the-second-line category): 8, 12, 13, 19, 22, 32, 35, 37, 38, 40, 44, 63, 67, 71, 75, 78, 80, 82, 86, 88, 91, 98.

    Hope this helps!

  29. I want to go through all the submissions, but I'm not sure if I'll have time for that so I'll just list my TOP TOP TOP FAVORITES right now.

    7, 11, 16, 22, 36, 86, 95

  30. Thanks to M&M (&N) for the contest opportunity! Thanks to those who liked my 1st line!
    Here are the few that really grabbed me: 2, 3, 6, 22, 36, 65, 78.
    Many of the others seem to be a genre I'm less interested in. I think seeing our 1st lines like this really illustrates how subjective this is. And it will be so interesting to see the 2nd and 3rd (etc) lines to see if our opinions change. I know I don't choose books to read by the 1st line only. So I'm looking forward to getting hooked later.

  31. I love contests, they're so much fun. Thanks for hosting this.

    For me, was hooked by these sentences: #1, 11, 18, 25, 29, 34, 52, 64, 65, 98. I tend to look for situations that intrigue me, and I wanted to know more about these. They are completely subjective to my tastes, of course. Others were well written, and I'm looking forward to line 2.

    Thanks again!

  32. I'm with Vicky in a way. I never understood the push in school to judge a book by the first paragraph. Unless it's a ten sentence paragraph and there's no hope of smaller ones on the page.

    It always takes me a few paragraphs to really be absorbed. Before that I can easily be distracted by something as simple as the wind picking up.

    I'm a front and back cover person. If it has a dark and foreboding cover, I'll flip it and read the hook. If I like it, I'm on it.

    However, if I'm not into by the end of the first chapter, I stick it in the donate box.

    My picks for intriguing content and why:

    6: We've all had similar wishes, so it helped me immediately identify with the character.

    25: While I think the flow of this sentence can be better, I know I'm going on a grand adventure kind of like, King's "The Body"

    36: This is so not my kind of book, but I know it has an audience. So, based on that line, yes, I want to know why.

    61: I admit it took me a minute to figure it out, maybe divide or hyphenate the slut when. Nobody really wants to think too hard especially in the first line. But I thought it was cleaver and might make a fine learning experience for Y adults, something I'm all for. No preach teaching.

    86: I really like this voice and idea, but without the wordiness. We live in twitter world and every word needs to count and still keep the voice. ex: First off, I just want to say I did not invite the aliens into my backyard.

    That's my five.

    Oh and I hope not to disappoint Ara.:)

  33. There are a lot of great first lines here.
    My favorites: 2, 11, 59, 72, 86, & 90

    Other comments:
    12-If this story is really set in hell, then I'm all in. But I need to see the next line to see if this is just an expression or a real setting.
    17-I've read that starting with a character waking up is frowned upon because it's been done so much.
    36-This made me laugh, but I have no idea where it's going, so I would need another line here before I decide to keep reading.
    39-The three L's in the beginning of this sentence were almost like a tongue-twister for me.
    62-The three F's in the beginning were like a tongue-twister for me, just like in 39.
    63-This got my attention. I want to see the next line.
    73-I was actually confused by this one. I'd read the next line to see if I could figure it out.
    88-Another one I like but need another line to decide if I'd keep reading.
    95-I want to know what "it" is. I'd keep reading.

    Good luck, everyone!

  34. Great list. I love, love, love:

    Life is so much easier without underwear.



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