Before I announce (and congratulate) the winner, please let me first thank everyone who participated in the contest, whether through entering, commenting, voting, or some combination thereof. This has been a lot of fun, you guys are seriously great, and I sense there are more contests in this blog’s future (maybe I AM a seer after all).
Please also allow me to extend another HUGE MASSIVE thanks to Holly, my illustrious co-judge and author of Nothing But Bonfires (you have checked it out and added it to your blog roll, right?), who took many, many hours out of her busy week to help co-judge the contest. And in fact, she was even kind enough to pass along a message to everyone:
Hi everyone, Holly here! I just wanted to introduce myself quickly and thank you all so much for your submissions.
When Nathan originally asked me to be a co-judge in his contest, I leaped at the chance—I mean, really, I think I said yes before he’d even finished asking the question.
“Are you sure you’re up for it?” he said. “I mean, I’m not entirely confident you know what you’re getting yourself in for. There are going to be quite a few entries, you know.”
“Pshaw!” I replied. “Why do you think I wear such strong contact lenses? From reading too much, of course! I devour whole novels in a day! I eat anthologies of short stories for breakfast! I can read a few hundred first pages for your competition, Nathan, no sweat!”
Except it wasn’t a few hundred, was it? It was 675. So, uh, thanks for that.
But the truth is, I had a blast. Honestly, I did. And in case there’s any doubt in your mind, I absolutely, unequivocally, cross-my-heart-and-swear-on-a-stack-of-Hills-DVDs read every single entry. (No, seriously! As Spencer is my witness!)
And narrowing them down was hard. It was excruciatingly hard. I started by copying and pasting the ones I was immediately impressed with into a Word document I called FINALISTS. But then I had so many finalists that I had to start another document called FOR REAL FINALISTS. After that came FINALISTS! NO, SERIOUSLY THIS TIME, NO KIDDING, and in that document I had about 30 entries. I cut that down to 15. I cut that down to 10, and then I sent those 10 to Nathan, who sent me his 10 back in return. We found we had two in common, so we put those on the master list.
After that, it all got a little Sophie’s Choice up in here. Of the two I eventually chose as my picks—Julianne’s and Charlotte’s, in case you’re wondering—both were equally evocative, clever, and just plain well-written. (Both were also about funerals, in case you hadn’t noticed, which prompted Nathan to email me and ask if everything was alright.) But the ones I had to leave behind broke my heart: the dead baby in Elladog’s story, the twelve-year-old smart talker in Lincoln Highwayman’s piece, the tarot card reader in Southern Writer’s intro, the newly boob-jobbed protagonist on Len Joy’s page. I wanted to bring them all with me onto the shortlist, and I’m hugely sorry that I couldn’t.
So thank you to all of you for making my days (and my nights—my long, long nights) that little bit more interesting. Thank you for giving me some truly great stuff to read. Thank you for having the courage to enter the competition and the graciousness to congratulate your peers when it was over.
And now I think it’s about time Nathan bought me a shot.
Nathan again. And yes, I definitely owe Holly a shot.
I’d also like to extend my own personal congratulations to the authors on my list of final 10 that barely missed the final 6: Eric (“Tweed & Scissors” — almost completed the contest trifecta having made the finalists of two previous blog contests), Walter (the Generalissimo), LindaBudz (the Potato Baby Dare), Ally (the Brown Shoe Diaries), and Michael Reynolds (disappearing teacher). In case you’re further curious, heather!anne! (soup can man) and kari (Possible Happiness) were on both Holly’s and my lists of top 10, and after Holly chose Julianne and Charlotte I chose luc and terryd to round out the top six.
PENULTIMATE congratulations are in order to our wonderful finalists: Julianne, kari, Charlotte, terryd, and luc. (Please e-mail me to discuss your prizes.)
And the ULTIMATE GRAND PRIZE SUPER DELUXE WINNER IS… after 675 entries, many votes, a whole lot of comments, and one great week…. I’m pleased to announce that heather!anne! is the winner of the Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge!
Thanks again everyone, I hope you will stick around and continue to participate in the blog, and I’ll be back later in the week with the usual blog programming.
Anon, don’t get down. No writer can be all things to all readers.
Scott from Oregon says
Having entered this party too late for consideration, I still think it was an amusing event.
I even enjoyed the angry vitriol from the anons, as if their righteousness was going to change our planetary trajectory and fix all that is broken in the world of books.
My biggest criticism of the chosen works was that I’d seen most of it all before. Reading, to me, should not be a deja vu experience. Ahh, but my bias is showing…
That said, I thought they were all exceptionally well written, and would give pleasure to many readers.
Thanks to Nathan and Holly for doing this. It has been educational and amusing to be sure…
Whoo!Hoo!Good!Job!Heather!Anne! – and Nathan and Holly.
Congratulations, Heather. You were my second choice, though that was probably because I’m a fan of sci-fi, and Luc wrote in my genre.
For the anonymous poster who thinks this is a ‘fluff’ blog, that assumes two things:
1) Luc’s trailer-trash-in-space entry was ‘fluffy’
2) ‘Fluff’ is defined by a site that isn’t overrun by trolls who feel the bloggers OWE them something, particularly after they just hosted a fun contest where they had to read two novels worth of writing just out of the goodness of their hearts.
And lastly, to the anonymous poster who wished he knew what kept his from being selected: this is why a handful of us (including me) posted critiques on our blogs. Sure, we’re not Holly or Nathan, but we’re your average reader, and could hopefully give you some insight on why your opening isn’t as good as it could be.
That makes sense. It’s also interesting that a majority were written that way. Is this a trend in the market or merely in the contest?
Nathan Bransford says
My readers’ WIPs tend to skew towards YA and commercial fiction, where first person is more common, I don’t know that it’s a trend overall, although definitely some very successful works of commercial/literary fiction (like THE KITE RUNNER) have gone that route.
I noticed a lot of very heavy descriptions as well. This seems to have become popular since HP. Describing the feel of the sand, the smell of the cactus and finally the reason the character is in the sand smelling cactus’.
Is the market skewing that way? Or is my perception just off?
“I’m pleased to say that my writing has never featured a corpse, rotting or not.”
Maybe that’s the problem. Throw a corpse in there, see what happens.
Oops, my apologies.
When going back through the other posts, you didn’t mention announcing a second place winner.
Well done to everyone who entered!
Adaora A. says
LOLing Mlh my love.
Richard in HP it’s pretty much necessary. The world is so rich with detail because every little bit you learn does come up later in the series. I was annoyed to say the least with the Heron pairing but I do know that about the HP books.
Nathan have you read all the HP books speaking of them?
Also have to ask: do you watch Gossip Girls? I remember you mentioning on the blog that you’d read one of them.
I’m pleased to say that my writing has never featured a corpse, rotting or not.
That made me smile. And it feels like a line that should be on a first page somewhere.
@ Adaora A.
I totally agree about HP. My comment was in no way a degradation of HP’s storytelling ability. I was actually referring to post-HP syndrome. It seems to have become the norm for everything.
Other Lisa says
Congratulations to Heather!Ann!!
And how do I join the Penny Loafer club?
I grew up when pennies bought things…when a movie, plus fifteen cartoons, popcorn and a coke hit you up for 35 cents. I believe I have seen your soup can man.
Would love to read more of his story.
In the aloha spirit, I would like to offer free surf lesssons to Heather!Anne! and the two courageous judges, Nathan and Holly, should any of them find their feet on the north shore of Kauai.
And finally, for a choice few brave anon’s out there…both Proud and otherwise…I am offering some very special surf lessons for you…at secret spots…perfectly fit for your bravado.
In the spirit of aloha, of course…
Late to the party, but wanting to throw in my congrats to Heather!Anne! and the other finalists, as well as my thank you to Nathan and Holly.
There’s some tough competition out there!
Nathan and Holly,
Thanks for all your hard work, and cheerleading! This was great fun, and a nice bit of encouragement, as well.
Congratulations to Heather!Anne! and the other 5 finalists, and to all who bravely entered!
I feel like that old saying,”The more I learn the less I know” of the publishing world. However, in addition to a wonderful choice in Ms. Heather Anne’s page, I feel like I’ve learned a bit more with this contest and thank you again for having it. It surprises me a little that some of the people who submitted their pages have had a negative response to their not being chosen, for this reason; To understand what an agent or avid blogger and reader (holly) believe is quality or at very least engaging writing is of utmost value. I couldn’t read every submission, and quite frankly I experimented with mine sort of like changing lures when the fish don’t bite sort of thing, but I took a great deal of knowledge away from the contest and immediately corrected some flaws in my own manuscript that I didn’t fully understand before the contest. So, the bottom line, is thanks to the both of you, and know that there’s an old man out in cyberspace that pops in here from time to time for a little inspiration.
Linda Bleser says
Congrats to Heather!Anne! and the other finalists. Great!job!everyone!
Thanks also to Holly for helping narrow the finalists down. Nathan, look at the bright side. Sure you had 675 entries in the contest, but that leaves 665 people who will probably never bother to query you because they didn’t make the cut. If nothing else, you’ve cut your slush pile down considerably. 🙂
congrats, heather!anne! and to everyone else. great contest idea, Nathan! it was lots of fun to just be a part of it.
I thought I’d posted, but can’t find it. I just wanted to just say thanks to all who entered and to Nathan and Holly for taking this on. It was great reading. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially to Heather!Anne!
I’ll admit I’m somewhat surprised — we managed to pull this off without a snark post from the fabulous Miss Snark. 😉
Sure you had 675 entries in the contest, but that leaves 665 people who will probably never bother to query you because they didn’t make the cut. If nothing else, you’ve cut your slush pile down considerably. 🙂
Doesn’t cut me out of the slush pile! Hey, never know; might like what’s on page 2. Besides, most of my novel takes place in San Francisco. It’s like a rule that I have to query you or something.
And congrats, Heather!Anne! I almost voted for you. It was a hard choice between you and Luc!
John Dixon says
Congratulations to Heather!Anne! and all of the finalists.
Thanks, Nathan and Holly, for this very cool contest. It was a lot of fun, and it helped me to rethink the opening of the novel I’m preparing to shop.
And thanks again to Nathan and Holly.
Fun, as always.
But I’m now left in the uncomfortable position of questioning my work without knowing what specifically is wrong with it. (And of course it’s gone through multiple critique groups,etc. I’m not trying to write in a vacuum.) My confidence is shaken. I do wish I hadn’t entered.
You might have a beautifully written piece that isn’t the sort of thing Nathan reads/represents. Nathan and Holly didn’t have identical lists of pages they liked. My favourites didn’t make it to the final. People aren’t saying it’s subjective just to be nice. It’s true. Reading tastes vary widely.
No Wednesday post? Oh my god, we finally broke him.
Thanks Nathan & Holly … I really enjoyed and every contest I enter I learn a great deal about my writing and come up with new ideas for re-writes.
A Big Congrats to Heather!Anne!
And I’ve always loved the exclamation point – glad to see it’s the new rage :o)
And to all the finalists – way to go!!!
And to the rests of us who entered – bravo for having the courage to put yourself out there!!!
Can any of us who weren’t in the finalists get some kind of comment from either Nathan or Holly or any of Nathan’s minions about why ours didn’t “cut it”?
I know I’m disappointed my first page or so wasn’t picked.
Nathan Bransford says
Sorry guys, I know people want more feedback, but I feel like I’ve done two posts on what worked for me with the winners. It’s not so much about what didn’t work with the ones who weren’t finalists as what DID work with the ones that were. Only six could be finalists — the rest were a range of not-there-yet to pretty good to very good, but I don’t think there’s any way for me to give a real breakdown.
All of the finalists were very, very good. But I favored Heather!Anne!’s–such a great voice!!!!
Congratulations to all!!
Just come back from a week’s holiday to discover I was a finalist. Woo-hoo! Thanks Nathan and Holly for your enormous efforts, and for making this writer’s year.
I was on an intensive working non-holiday and just found this. Congrats to Heather!Anne! and all posters! Thanks to Nathan and Holly for lending their minds and eyes so generously! It really helps to see what grabs you.
Lincoln Highwayman says
Congratulations to all the winners. And thank you Nathan & Holly for taking on this contest.
I hope everyone had as much fun with this as I did.