If you haven’t already entered the 4th Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge, please do so in the official contest thread! Win partial consideration by Catherine Drayton and a signed ARC of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW!
I’ve blogged before about how helpful it is to read slush to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work, and to gain an appreciation for the difficulty of making snap judgments on a huge number of different works at once.
But short of getting a job at a literary agency, what’s the next best thing? Reading contest entries! The quality is similar, the experience of jumping from one world to the next is similar, and while after your first fifty the paragraphs may blur together, you’ll notice the good ones really standing out.
So I’d encourage people to go through the contest entries, see which ones are your favorite, and then think about why they’re your favorite.
There’s a lot to learn from having to decide which ones you think are the best.
Doug Pardee says
Nathan: I believe that this article is about the upcoming site that anon@9:56 was talking about:
New digital publishing blog/community launching soon: The Gatekeeper's Post
Carol Riggs says
YES, I was doing that before I posted my entry yesterday. Like some paragraphs were okay, a lot were good, but THEN there were the ones that really stood out–and not just ones that started right off with rabid action, either. The voice itself was catchy, the words arranged in a poetic, clever, or unique way. I will intrigued to see your finalists, Nathan! (realizing it's somewhat subjective, but hey, good writing is good writing).
Ah ha! I KNEW there was a learning element to the contest! Very sneaky Bransford, very sneaky.
Michael G-G says
Nathan, I do believe you're going to break the thousand comment barrier. It might take a while to judge, but I bet you're a fast reader.
I read the first 870 or so and picked approximately 60 (just shy of 7%) I'd consider reading further. There were a few others that were written well, but the subject/genre didn't interest me. Now I know why agents say "not for me."
A final thought: seems to be quite a bloodbath out there, folks. Hold onto your chainsaws.
Nathan Bransford says
A completed manuscript is not necessary to enter the contest.
I will allow sommmmme flexibility with incorporating dialogue into the paragraph, but not endlessly so. At the end of the day a paragraph is a paragraph.
Clear as mud, I know.
Just seeing how many…my head hurts.
Why is the world would you put yourself through this?
Yup…mine is the best !
Thanks Nathan! Happy reading.
(Anon @ 2:16)
Wow, 1000 entries! My Google Chrome keeps freezing, LOL! I must say it's always an education. Most of the entries just run together and then there are a few that really catch your eye. I entered, like last year, mostly to get my text out there. It's a feat of courage, since I haven't queried yet! But, like last year, I'm feeling humbled by all the talent I see there.
Nathan – and the other participants: would it be OK to repost some of my favorite paragraphs at my LJ? (It's at https://livejournal.com/deniselleb)
With linkage here, of course. Or would it be better manners to just link to the relevant page of comments and say which names I liked the best?
I must say I'm feeling a bit chagrined to add my paragraph after 1000 or so, but charge on, child! I've been reading quite a few of the entries and while there are definitely some that are easy nos, it is amazing how many great ones there are.
Nathan Bransford says
Only with the author's permission, please.
Daniel Smith says
Good advice. Thanks for the suggestion and opportunity.
Nathan – yeah, I'd like to be asked if it were me. I was thinking, it gets a bit complicated. I think I'll just link to the relevant comment pages. Thanks. 🙂
Man oh man. How the heck do you pick finalists out of 1,000+ entries, many of which are good? I'm in awe of what agents do. I'm very curious your methods of madness…i.e. how you approach the task of widdling that massive pile into a manageable number. I just don't see how you folks do that on a daily basis. I was beating my face with my computer monitor after about the 300th paragraph, haha. Not that they're all horrendous…just couldn't handle the dizzying feeling of switching genres and styles EVERY fifteen seconds. Unbelievable.
Doug Pardee says
Nathan: The Gatekeepers Post seems to be live now.
Vanessa K. Eccles says
I really enjoy your blog, by the way. I snatch up all kinds of good info on here.
I am also really excited about the First Paragraph Contest. I think it's brilliant. It is a lot of fun reading everyone's unique styles, but I can see how the sheer volume of them can be overwhelming. I can’t wait to see who makes the finals. Happy reading. 😉
Hi Nathan! I've been reading your blog for a while but finally de-lurked to enter the contest. And then took your advice and read all 1500+ entries (being able to read fast is a really useful skill!). I managed to whittle them down to a shortlist of 15 entries, and it wasn't as painful as I expected. I understand so much more about agents now – the thrill of finding an amazing voice, how it doesn't take much to know if you like it or not, and why request rates are so low. It was fun, thanks so much for the opportunity!