The first paragraph challenge is back! There are prizes! Are you ready?
In order to celebrate the publication of the second edition of How to Write a Novel (preorder now, available tomorrow!!), I’m bringing back the grandaddy of them all, the big kahuna, the one, the only… SIXTH Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge!
Is your first paragraph the best of them all? ENTER THIS CONTEST TO FIND OUT.
Before we get to the prizes, let’s talk about the pride of being among the very prestigious finalists of competitions on this blog. Here are just some of a few of the now-published authors who were once contest finalists:
Victoria Schwab! Michelle Hodkin! Stuart Neville! Josin L. McQuein! Michelle Davidson Argyle! Joshua McCune! Natalie Whipple! Terry DeHart! Jeanne Ryan! Peter Cooper! Travis Erwin!
Will you be next on this illustrious list?
Oh yes, the prizes.
- The finalists will win a query critique from yours truly (or other agreed upon prize of similar value).
- In additional to a query critique, the WINNER will receive a $100 gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice (or other agreed-upon prize of similar value).
Here’s what you need to know:
- Please post the first paragraph of any work-in-progress in the comments section of THIS POST. If you are reading this post via e-mail you must click here to enter. Please do not e-mail me your submission as it will not count.
- The deadline to enter is this FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18 at 7pm ET, at which point entries will be closed. Finalists will be announced… probably Monday. I think. Hopefully. When the finalists are announced you will get to exercise your democratic right to vote on the stupendously ultimate winner.
- PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE CONTEST! The more entries, the more satisfaction you will have when you crush them with your first paragraph.
- Please please check and double-check your entry before posting. If you spot an error in your post after entering: please do not re-post your entry. Don’t worry about typos. I make them all the time!
- You may enter once, once you may enter, and enter once you may. If you post anonymously please be sure and leave your name (no cheating on this one).
- You must be at least 14 years old and less than 178 years old to enter. No exceptions.
- I’m on the Twitter! And the Instagram! And subscribe to the newsletter while you’re at it! I will be posting contest updates. (Okay maybe not Instagram but you might see what I’m cooking for dinner as I stress eat while reading the entries).
Don’t forget to pre-order How to Write a Novel! I’m very excited about the new edition and it will be available soon as an audiobook too!
Here! We! Go!!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes, my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Roger L Nay says
Priscilla found a refuge but no solace in the caves’ dim recesses. Her enhanced retinas adjusted within seconds to reveal she was not the first to seek shelter in the underground chamber. A jumble of ancient bones lay at one end where soot from countless fires blackened the walls. Depictions of extinct animals in red and orange ochre filled the room, the colors still vibrant. In those days people worshiped ancestors, millennia before Romans slit the throats of animals as a sacrifice to one or more gods. The same gods who departed while the Visigoths looted Rome and their time on Earth relegated to myth. Seventeen hundred years later the descendants of Jupiter and Aphrodite returned to lord over and meddle in the affairs of humankind. Their massive silver ships, a majestic sight, hovered above Earth’s major cities. Now their wreckage smoldered in the rubble of those great cities. Pursued with zeal by genetically engineered soldiers, like the demigods of old, and swarms of deadly drones no larger than bees, Priscilla longed to close her eyes and drift into a peaceful sleep. She knew the respite must be short; the humans were close.
Karen Lowe says
“Wesley, my remaining son.” The voice struck Wes Vortledge from behind. In that instant, his thoughts of the bass guitar, the band and tonight’s gig disappeared. Memories flooded in. His heart raced. He spun and looked into his mother’s hard, angry eyes that pierced his skin like icicles.
Jane Sloven says
I sit at my round oak kitchen table, sipping mint tea sweetened with honey, watching a plump mourning dove splash in my backyard birdbath. Sunlight plays against the yellow walls and white bead-board cabinets. Seemingly out of nowhere, an image arises—my friend Miriam and me walking into the Boston public defenders office. Long before Miriam was murdered. Long before I jettisoned the practice of law. Long before my marriage shattered. Dread seeps into my chest. The telephone rings. I flash on the face of my old boss, Brad Kelly. For a moment I can barely breathe.
Tam Feinga says
If Da discovers me listening in he’ll have my hide stretched and pieced. A common enough phrase for most other girls that for me is too near the truth. See, my Da is one of the Bigs, currently upholding the title of Brave. A rank that might be fitting enough because he is brave I suppose, but all that bravery must be taking up too much space in his tight little heart for there’s certainly no room for anything else in there. Like understanding or forgiveness.
Jennie E. Raney says
I am writing this request, because I have lived far too long and the living has become far too much to bear. I want to mingle my bones with the bones of my ancestors. I want to lie down near my family, and die, in the manner of elephants. Do such animals, like we, possess souls? My husband, Pharaoh Ay, the most high priest assures me everything exits, because of the gods’ collective will. I ask you, then, why would any living thing not possess a soul? Except, perhaps, elephants may enjoy their simple afterlife, while the souls of my departed family cannot go abroad, either in the daytime or by night. Their Kas are in mortal danger from my husband’s successor.
Dear reader, if you have found and are reading the contents of this message, then I implore you to come to my family’s rescue. I, Queen Tay, have committed my requests to the sea of eternity, in the belief that its discoverer will deliver my family from a daemon, which ingratiated its way inside the Egyptian court, years ago, to cause mayhem, death and famine.
Jennifer Comeau says
Not that it had gone from silent to humming, because it had not. But it was as if there had been no sounds of any consequence until the bees arrived. It seemed every tree and rock and waterfall noticed too, because the land incarnated an ancient melody. It was the song of creation, and it had once filled the hearts of the Irish who’d heard it as a deep beckoning into nature’s boundless mysteries. Now, under the colonizing forces of England and a burgeoning Catholic Church, to Irish ears, the song of creation had become a whisper. Morrigan Lane, however, possessed a deep capacity to connect to the subtle realms of the land, though she herself hadn’t fully realized it. Something happened to her when she joined in her people’s ancient ceremonies at the stone circle: her body hummed like a colony of bees, her freckled cheeks flushed with vitality, and she heard leaves rustle a word in the wind. Believe. Of course, the ceremonies were much frowned upon these days.
Jennifer Faragitakis says
The best way to tell someone they’ll die soon, is to say nothing. I learned this last night at Foodway, after an old guy with an oxygen tank hurled potatoes at me. The welts beneath my school uniform warn me to limit my psychic ability. I’d be smart to listen, since sometimes when I’m in that zone, a darkness emerges that grabs me by its teeth and won’t let go.
Mike Ermitage says
I didn’t like the looks of the new librarian. Tall and skinny with designer frames, there was something out of place about him. Like he wanted everyone to think that he read a lot of books but in reality, he sampled only the classics from each genre. I watched him from my perch on the balcony, a little place I liked to call the bird’s nest. A loft area with two tables and a nearly-always empty vending machine, I could spy on the librarians with impunity. They marched to and fro like Disney World automatons, repeating the same actions with equal effort. Librarian Designer Frames completed less to-ing and fro-ing, but he had a certain confidence in his mesmerizing gait. Just as I decided to flip open my book, the new librarian looked my way. I think. It felt like he just quickly glanced directly at me, purposefully, as if he was trying to conspicuously communicate. I raised my book to cover my face; my eyes just able to peer over the ragged edges. He walked to the book holds shelf, placed a thick novel on the second shelf, turned and locked eyes with me momentarily before disappearing into the adult fiction stacks.
Marci Whitehurst says
Momma waved a hundred dollar bill before my eyes–the cash we got for Brown Betty, our station wagon that coughed us into Seattle. Brown Betty died in Washington after moving us from California to New Mexico to Wisconsin to Mississippi, then Alabama and several states in between. Now, if Momma wanted to move again, it’d be up to the rain to float us away.
“Tell me a story of sin and regret.” “Ah, so it’s a love story you want!”
Deb Boyken says
George stood in his studio, panting, looking at the shards, pieces, splinters that had been a beautiful hand-crafted desk not ten minutes ago. He weighed the hammer in his hand and let his eyes pass over the other broken pieces scattered about the room without an ounce of remorse. How could he sit here churning out tables and chairs and spindles while Pamela rotted in the ground?
Matt Athanasiou says
Pest thought he had stepped into the past. There were people in this poorly lit, ramshackle nightclub. A bartender was hunched at the counter, resting on his elbows, chin in his hands and facing two customers. A man and woman leaned their backs against the pitched stage on the far wall, her arm around him. Two hooded people sat on the steps descending to the cratered dance floor, heads tilted together. Pest’s thought about the past was fleeting, and he supposed it was the familiar fragrance of lime that tipped him off, made him hitch up the straps of his backpack. All of these people were dead.
Abigail Dunlap says
It was Floy’s first spring wedding. Her original marriage ceremony had been in autumn, the foliage about the little country church trumpeting their best wishes for my sister against a cold, slate sky. Husband number two had favored Christmas eve vows at the courthouse with myself and his weasely-faced business partner as the sole witnesses. Pity that it had been their only Christmas together–but it had been a doomed coupling from the start.
Vanshika Prusty says
a friend of mine told me about this so I have to enter!!
“When the stars fell from the skies, the elders prepared for a war from the gods. And yet, when the gods descended, the world stood no chance. It was ashes to ashes before a finger could be lifted to defend this plane.”
M. Chazel says
I am often deemed more powerful than the Man upstairs. What you humans don’t know is that I just work for Him. I’m another worker bee, but I love my job so much that I do it for free. Of course, some of my colleagues think that I have the easiest job in the organization. One even gave me the stink-eye last month after accusing me of increasing his workload. I admit it. I may be involved in some cases, but I know he’s mostly jealous of my popularity with you (and he’s not the only one). If only they saw the heavy half-moons hidden by make-up under my eyes… My cases linger in my mind long after I leave the office. After all, for better or worse, your lives are never the same after your encounter with me. While my work is certainly felt and seen, I had never been spotted in action by any human. Until yesterday.
Richard Brewer says
Everyone has one. That one that sets up residence in a corner of their heart and once settled … stays. There is no telling who they will be or when they’ll appear. It could be the fourth grade teacher from when you were nine, or that first girl you kissed, went steady with, slept with. Or maybe it was that fresh faced girl in the yellow sun dress you passed one summer afternoon when you were twenty and never saw again but never forgot. No matter who they where, they remain with you. That one. The one. For me it was Kathryn Melinda McCormick, She was that one, my one, and I had missed her funeral by three days.
Peter Innes says
Walking into the emergency department, code carts tidily arranged along one wall, the trauma bay to his right and opposite the pink room for psych patients, Reid felt the warm embrace of home ground. On the move, exchanging pleasantries with the nurses, he set his oversized coffee mug on the central desk and coercing himself to remain open minded, headed for exam room seven where prisoners brought in were evaluated.
Nathan Bransford says
Annnnnnnnd time! Thanks to everyone who entered! I’ll be back on Monday with the finalists.
Joanna van der Gracht says
Mauro felt no warmth emanating from the mid-March sun, and it made him feel nostalgic for his home in Mexico. He took a deep breath. No time for this – he thought – it’s time to get to work. With his head tucked down from the wind, he all but tripped over the hunched figure whose hands clutched her neck. He recognized the sound of sharp pings reverberating off the cement, and dove to the ground like Mark Spitz vaulting into a pool. Michael flailed his big hands and long arms in wide arks, all the while sweeping towards his chest whatever he snagged. He figured the string must have broken, but he could see no more translucent beads glinting at him. She reached to help him up. He could tell she was smiling as he poured about 20 of her precious pearls into the purse at her side. “Thank you,” she said. He raised his gaze to hers; her chocolate-brown eyes had golden flecks around the irises. They look like honey – Michael exhaled slowly – he knew that he had come home.