Thursday, July 15, 2010

32 Line-by-line Novel Opening Contest: Round Four Winners

Round Four judging for our Line-by-line novel opening contest is now complete. The top ten opening sentences are in, and literary agent Natalie Fischer says the entries are getting harder and harder to pick--there are too many great beginnings. Without a query letter to clue her into the plot, she's having to rely on guesses about where she thinks the novel is going. And she also points out that evaluating writing of any kind is a highly subjective process. 

Without further ado, the finalists are listed below. At the end of the contest, each of them will receive at minimum a 3-page critique from one of our participating authors. If you are one of these lucky ten, please add the first five sentences of your manuscript along with your entry number and name into the comments of this post by 6:00 pm Monday, July 19th for the final round of judging.

If you didn't make it to the last round, we will be holding the promised critique clinic for you. There will be an announcement posted about it this afternoon.

Finalists

#11 L.J. Boldyrev

There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are. There ain’t no street lamps on this stretch of road, but still the trees glow like they’re lit from the ground up.

“Not much farther,” Jack says.

I want to tell him he’s driving too fast, to slow down so I can get a better look at the trees, but I know we got to hurry.

#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. That is, until Priscilla Martin escaped.

Even before she escaped, Priscilla was less than a model student. Miss Birch, the embroidery teacher, had been horrified to find that during her second week at the school Priscilla had started embroidering skulls and crossbones instead of flowers on all her projects.

#28 Cambria Dillon

Whoever said cell phones made life easier was full of BS. If it were true, then I wouldn’t have spent the past fourteen minutes sitting on my bed, half-naked, wondering why my thumb couldn’t do something as simple as press a button.

Girls did this sort of thing every day. Probably every minute at Pembroke, which meant I had just wasted fourteen—no wait, fifteen—opportunities to prove to Tommy that—damn it Kendall, just do it already.

#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. He had failed his friends, offended the Emperor, and worst of all - he could barely think it - had he really shoved his grandmother?

The plaza was full of people celebrating the equinox, but Mau couldn't hide in the crowd. Although he had the chocolate skin and thick black hair of his people, his forearms and the back of his hands were covered with tattoos.

#54 shanini3

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

Malaysa clutched the balcony railing as she stared out over the land in the predawn glow from the sky. The tinkling of metal tubes continued to ring out in the air; they were what had woken her up.

Her mother, standing by her side, bore a terrified expression.

#57 Sheila

Jacob shook the bamboo bars of his cage again, but they held fast. I couldn't look at him; not even when he whispered, "Blake, please."

I focused on Will, leaning casually against the cottonwood tree, a smile twitching the edge of his mouth as he watched Jacob. I wanted to feel as relaxed and confident as he looked.  

#58 Tracy

Dearest Mother;

I know you’ve been wanting to hear 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. Hopefully you’ll be pleased that I’ve been trying not to complain about the piano not landing on Grok instead (and that I’ve only been taunting him in the gruel line at breakfast). Also, no matter what you’ve heard, I was not the one who gave him that atomic wedgie.

As for the new guy - it’s not right to speak ill of the heir to the Evil Lordship, but the kid is hopeless.

#61 Ara Burklund

Homo sapiens sluttiwhen drunkus--the subspecies to which I apparently belong.

My best friend Ani handed me a tall, clear-glass cup of Armenian coffee, the kind her mom used for readings down at the Psychic Connection. "So did you at least use a condom?"

I shrugged.

#66 Christine

Dragons are actually more curious than cats.

They proved it now, in the darkest corners of the Dreugan caves where the clan pretended to sleep. It was fairly difficult – the pretending – because of the human baby that was trying to wiggle her chubby hand into the black dragon’s mouth. Concerned about the burning acid that seeped from his tongue, he tightened his lips and gently nudged the toddler toward the blue dragon by his side, the one whose saliva was just cold and wet.

#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. Locked inside for more than half of the day, my body twitches for the feel of the brisk air that causes my drool to freeze to my face. Big footsteps lumber down the stairs and instinctively I cower as far back inside my cage as possible, lowering my body to the pee-stained blanket in an attempt to make my big frame small while keeping my eyes downcast. A whine slips from me when he kneels in front of the cage, as I fear he is going to haul me out and give me a good beating.

32 comments:

  1. Awesome openings. Great work people. Glad I'm not judging. Have a super day.

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  2. Congratulations to the top 10!

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  3. These are all so great! And Natalie is an amazing judge! Congrats to the top 10!!!

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  4. Yay! Congrats to everyone who made it this far! I can't wait to read them all!

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  5. Wow! These are awesome! Thank you so much! :-)

    L.J. Boldyrev (Lacey)
    #11

    There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are. There ain’t no street lamps on this stretch of road, but still the trees glow like they’re lit from the ground up.

    “Not much farther,” Jack says.

    I want to tell him he’s driving too fast, to slow down so I can get a better look at the trees, but I know we got to hurry. This dead girl won't stay dead for long.

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  6. congratulations, guys--love all these entries! Good luck.

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  7. great entries everybody!

    #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. That is, until Priscilla Martin escaped.

    Even before she escaped, Priscilla was less than a model student. Miss Birch, the embroidery teacher, had been horrified to find that during her second week at the school Priscilla had started embroidering skulls and crossbones, instead of flowers, on all her projects. Miss Ash discovered that not only had the girl never had any drawing instruction before (which she considered a horrible oversight on the part of the girl's parents), but Priscilla was also partial to drawing dreary forests and populating them with monsters.

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  8. Congrats everyone! This was a great experience. Thank you.

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  9. These are great! Congrats to the top ten, woohoo!

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  10. Congrats to everyone! These openings are fantastic!

    Cambria Dillon
    #28

    Whoever said cell phones made life easier was full of BS. If it were true, then I wouldn’t have spent the past fourteen minutes sitting on my bed, half-naked, wondering why my thumb couldn’t do something as simple as press a button.

    Girls did this sort of thing every day. Probably every minute at Pembroke, which meant I’d just wasted fourteen—no wait, fifteen—opportunities to prove to Tommy that—damn it Kendall, just do it already.

    Grinding my teeth, I lifted my arm and pointed the viewfinder at my chest.

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  11. Awesome! Congratulations on making it this far, everyone!

    #58

    Dearest Mother;

    I know you’ve been wanting to hear 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. Hopefully you’ll be pleased that I’ve been trying not to complain about the piano not landing on Grok instead (and that I’ve only been taunting him in the gruel line at breakfast). Also, no matter what you’ve heard, I was not the one who gave him that atomic wedgie.

    As for the new guy - it’s not right to speak ill of the heir to the Evil Lordship, but the kid is hopeless. I don’t usually want to give up on the new evil overlord this quickly, but I’m telling you, I’ve spent several weeks observing him and I don’t think this kid has a mean bone in his body!

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  12. #11 L.J. Boldyrev, ftw.

    it's written in a clearly unique voice that makes me want to know more about the narrator, the implied preceding action is so tantalizingly subtle it's almost maddening, and the narrator's reaction to the trees-as-distraction from the preceding action is, i think, very true to life.

    again, this is a full story i want to read. now.

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  13. WOW, what a stunner of a fifth sentence, LJ Boldyrev! You are my fave, #11! I would SO like to read the rest of that book. Do I really have to wait until you get published???? Do you need a line-by-line critiquer? That's the kind of ms swap I tend to do. :)

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  14. Tom, Carol, wow. Thank you guys, so much!
    Tracy, I wanted to say that I love your opening!
    They're all fantastic but your voice really stands out to me, as does the subject matter.

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  15. Congrats to all the winners! I sure am glad I don't have to be the one to eliminate anyone. BTW, Marissa - you won my contest! Check it out.

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  16. Wow! I'm so excited to have made the top 10!!! There were so many awesome entries in the top 25.

    #61

    Homo sapiens sluttiwhen drunkus--the subspecies to which I apparently belong.

    My best friend Ani handed me a tall, clear-glass cup of Armenian coffee, the kind her mom used for readings down at the Psychic Connection. "So did you at least use a condom?"

    I shrugged. All 4’11” of her was going to kick my ass if I told the truth, that I was stupid and didn't use anything.

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  17. Congrats to this round's winners! Awesome job!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  18. @ Lacey - Thanks so much for the compliment! I really like the voice in your beginning too, and love the tone you've set in your first 5. All of the entries are so good, yet so varied. I'm grateful to have made it this far, and I'm REALLY glad I'm not judging this thing! :)

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  19. Congratulations to all the finalists!

    #66

    Dragons are actually more curious than cats.

    They proved it now, in the darkest corners of the Dreugan caves where the clan pretended to sleep. It was fairly difficult – the pretending – because of the human baby that was trying to wiggle her chubby hand into the black dragon’s mouth. Concerned about the burning acid that seeped from his tongue, he tightened his lips and gently nudged the toddler toward the blue dragon by his side, the one whose saliva was just cold and wet.

    Obliging, the blue dragon pretended to yawn and left his mouth open so that the child could climb inside it.

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  20. Congrats to those of you who made the top 10.

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  21. Such fantastic beginnings!

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  22. These are all fabulous- I can't imagine having to choose! Congratulations everyone who made it here. You are all obviously winners!

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  23. I'm waving the white flag here because these are so good. I wanted to say that you are all great hookers, but of course that doesn't sound right. But I'm so hooked by these. For each of these, I'm in awe of the author's ability to increase my interest with each successive sentence.

    Anyway, here's mine, #57

    Jacob shook the bamboo bars of his cage again, but they held fast. I couldn't look at him; not even when he whispered, "Blake, please."

    I focused on Will, leaning casually against the cottonwood tree, a smile twitching the edge of his mouth as he watched Jacob. I wanted to feel as relaxed and confident as he looked. I had to convince myself that this experiment would work, that it would fix Jacob.

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  24. Great entries--I'm a little biased but my fave belongs to my blog Sister Lacey (LJ Boldyrev)!

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  25. Congrats to all the finalists! Great work guys!!!

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. Wow, these are all really good. At least we all get something whether we win first place or not! :)

    #54 S. L. Bynum (Shanika Leiann)

    There was no mistaking the darkness on the eastern horizon; they were coming.
    Malaysa clutched the balcony railing as she stared out over the land in the predawn glow from the sky. The tinkling of metal tubes continued to ring out in the air; they were what had woken her up.
    Her mother, standing by her side, bore a terrified expression. “Those are the alert chimes--the day we have been dreading has finally arrived."

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  28. #79
    Holy crap! These are totally amazing and I can't believe I made it this far. Totally honored because I love them all.


    I am suffocating inside my plastic lined steel barred cage; dying with the thickening silence and quiet sobbing coming from the other room. Locked inside for more than half of the day, my body twitches for the feel of the brisk air that causes my drool to freeze to my face. Big footsteps lumber down the stairs and instinctively I cower as far back inside my cage as possible, lowering my body to the pee-stained blanket in an attempt to make my big frame small while keeping my eyes downcast. A whine slips from me when he kneels in front of the cage, as I fear he is going to haul me out and give me a good beating. He stands, glaring at me with eyes full of hatred but then turns away, and just when I think I am in the clear he gives my cage a good hard kick, forcing it to almost roll over.

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  29. #47

    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. He had failed his friends, offended the Emperor, and worst of all - he could barely think it - had he really shoved his grandmother?

    The plaza was full of people celebrating the equinox, but Mau couldn't hide in the crowd. Although he had the chocolate skin and thick black hair of his people, his forearms and the back of his hands were covered with tattoos.

    Unable to see his way through the close-packed multitude, Mau looked up to the stars and, hovering over the temple-pyramid like a thundercloud, the dark bulk of the Emperor's starship.

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