Monday, April 25, 2011

First Page Shooter #3

Word Count: approx 60,000 words
Genre: YA

Original
Killing someone's easier than you think. All it takes is decision, aim, and follow through. Like basketball, only you shouldn't expect people to leap to their feet and cheer if you hit the free throw.

The whole thing's a done deal in a matter of seconds.

Revenge, on the other hand, and I mean real, calculated, make-him-sorry-he-was ever-born vengeance, takes time and planning and patience. You have to smile when you want to scream. You have to look your target in the eye when you'd rather claw his eyes out. And you have to ignore the slow spreading burn in your gut until it turns to ice, and sets your resolve so completely, you can't turn away without splintering.

Do it right, and their blood will be on their own hands. Just another tragic teen suicide that ends up buried on the back of page three and gets a memorial sheet in the school annual. Lots of flowers and stuffed animals and card collages stuck to the door. Pretty words and puffy, red-rimmed eyes from people who will question "why", but don't actually look hard enough to find out.

No matter how messy it gets, or how much blood's involved, suicide's a clean kill. And any hunter can tell you that clean kills are what you want. Though any scenario that ends with Brooks Walden in a mangled heap works for me.

*******


With Suzie's Critique

Killing someone's easier than you think. All it takes is decision, aim, and follow through. Like basketball, only you shouldn't expect people to leap to their feet and cheer if you hit the free throw.

Wow. This first line totally makes me sit up and pay attention. It's short, concise, and a little shocking. In just one line, I'm interested in the character, and I'm also wondering a little about myself--would killing someone be easier than I'd think. (Morbid, I know).


While I like the decision, aim, follow through aspect of the basketball comparison, I'm a little thrown by it. The transition wasn't quite what I expected.  I think it works, but contingent on the character. If this character plays or really likes basketball it works. If not...then maybe not.  In other words if basketball is somehow important to the story, then I like it, if it's just there for comparison's sake, there might be a better comparison to have. Or we might not need a comparison at all. I can tell after reading the next few paragraphs, our narrator has definitely thought things through. I'd believe it without a comparison.

The whole thing's a done deal in a matter of seconds.

Love this line! It's powerful, and it's a little scary.

Revenge, on the other hand, and I mean real, calculated, make-him-sorry-he-was ever-born vengeance, takes time and planning and patience. You have to smile when you want to scream. You have to look your target in the eye when you'd rather claw his eyes out. And you have to ignore the slow spreading burn in your gut until it turns to ice, and sets your resolve so completely, you can't turn away without splintering.

I was interested before, but this is the paragraph that really gets me. This is paragraph where the voice stands up off the page. It also implies some great details about the character(s) and the conflict. Our speaker for instance is probably a girl (guys don't typically claw each other's eyes out) and she's about to tell us a revenge story--revenge on a boy (make him sorry he was ever born). She's smart, tough, calculating, and maybe a little crazy--but I want to follow her and find out what this guy did and how this revenge plan goes.

Do it right, and their blood will be on their own hands. Just another tragic teen suicide that ends up buried on the back of page three and gets with a memorial sheet in the school annual. Lots of flowers and stuffed animals and card collages stuck to the door. Pretty words and puffy, red-rimmed eyes from people who will question "why", but don't actually look hard enough to find out.

The bitterness here! Our character definitely has a backstory, and I want to know what happened to her to make her this jaded. I crossed out a few words to just tighten the sentences, and crossed out the last "will" to match the tense of the rest of the sentence and most of the paragraph.

No matter how messy it gets, or how much blood's involved, suicide's a clean kill. And any hunter can tell you that clean kills are what you want. Though any scenario that ends with Brooks Walden in a mangled heap works for me.

If this was the last line on a page, I would definitely turn to the next page and read more. I love that we have a name to our target--and potentially our antagonist. And of course I love that his name is Brooks. (All Brooks' are a little evil, right?) But the image of this guy in a mangled heap has definitely caught my interest. Again, the comparison to a hunter works, but I'm wondering if "hunting" Brooks Walden is going to come up consistently, and I think it works best if that's the case. But again, I think it could actually be taken out, just "And clean kills are what you want" gets the point across.


Also my final thoughts have more to do with what comes next. Because these first 250 words are totally me.  I kind of love them--okay, I do love them--but the biggest thing this author has to be careful of is the likability of the protagonist.  If this story is about getting revenge on Brooks Walden and making him wish he was dead --or worse--our protagonist is a little bit of an anti hero. The author is going to be flirting with a fine line when it comes to likability. If our protagonist's motives for vengeance aren't severe enough, we aren't going to want to follow her.  In other words, Brooks has to be just plain awful, in order for us to root for the right person--at least in the beginning.


As an agent, I would totally without hesitation request this manuscript based on these pages. As a reader and book buyer, I would definitely turn the page.

Friday, April 22, 2011

First Page Shooter #2

Here is the original query by itself:

There were seven of them, plus an angel.

Arine shivered in the cold night air, wishing she wore something more than just a t-shirt and jeans. Her wavy blonde hair kept her shoulders and upper back warm, but otherwise didn’t help much, and it itched.

The mountain cave they’d finally found to hide in had rocks and branches and other debris strewn all around. She wished they’d been able to find something with more room, but this was the best they’d been able to find. Oh well, discomfort was a small price to pay for freedom, and the satisfaction of having rescued the angel from the stupid evil jerks at the institution.

Arine shifted her position on the cave floor, adjusting her grip on the unconscious angel in her arms, hoping to share body heat. Then she looked around to see how the others were doing.

Fiore’s tongue poked out the side of his mouth as he tried to make a fire with a couple of branches. He kept tossing his head to get his thick black hair out of his face. His deep brown eyes were narrowed, focused on his task. He’d been at it fifteen minutes already, though, and Arine was freezing.

“Hurry up with that,” she told Fiore. He shot her a bruised look. It was the same stupid sulky-hurt expression he made whenever anyone commented on his inability to wear clothes that didn’t clash horribly. But he did have a wretched sense for colors.

******
Here is the query with notes (my comments are bolded):
There were seven of them, plus an angel.
Joanna: This is a strong opening line, but who is “them”?  You don’t have to say it immediately following this line, but you shouldn’t wait too long to clarify that all of them are hiding together, because it isn’t exactly clear without rereading it a few times.

Arine shivered in the cold night air, wishing she wore something more than just a t-shirt and jeans. Her wavy blonde hair kept her shoulders and upper back warm, but otherwise didn’t help much, and it itched.
Joanna: This line felt like a forced description and stopped the forward momentum immediately for me.  Do we need to know that she has blonde hair at this exact moment? It’s also a little distracting because you mention that it itched, and I’m not sure why it itches, and you don’t explain it immediately.  I’m assuming that it’s because she’s dirty and in a cave? But either way, all I’m thinking by line 3 is “Does she have lice?”

The mountain cave they’d finally found to hide in had rocks and branches and other debris strewn all around. She wished they’d been able to find something with more room, but this was the best they’d been able to find. Oh well, discomfort was a small price to pay for freedom, and the satisfaction of having rescued the angel from the stupid evil jerks at the institution.
Joanna: This whole paragraph is clunkier than it needs to be, and in one or two areas, a little redundant.  Try combining all of the information we—the reader—need here into one strong line, or two more concise strong lines.  Something like:

The cave they discovered on the mountainside was dirty and cramped, but perfect for hiding from the jerks at the institution. And discomfort was a small price to pay for freedom.

If you clarify sooner that all 8 of them are hiding, you won’t need to mention the angel again right here. 

Arine shifted her position on the ground cave floor, adjusting her grip on the unconscious angel in her arms, hoping to share body heat. Then she looked around to see how the others were doing.
Joanna: That last line is very passive.  You don’t need to tell us that she looked around to see how they were doing—the reader doesn’t need that prompt unless the character is doing something really out of the ordinary.  Instead, just go into how they’re doing.  Something like:

…hoping to share body heat.  The others weren’t fairing much better.

Fiore’s tongue poked out the side of his mouth as he tried to make a fire with a couple of branches. He kept tossing his head to get his thick black hair out of his face. His deep brown eyes were narrowed, focused on his task. He’d been at it fifteen minutes already, though, and Arine was freezing.
Joanna: There is a lot of body description crammed into this paragraph.  You want to have some description, of course, but keep it to just a couple things at a time.  In reading this paragraph a few times, I would suggest cutting the tongue poking out the side of his mouth—it’s almost a little too comical, and it’s not as important as learning about what he looks like.  You already say that he narrows his eyes, “focused on his task” which is really accomplishing the same thing as the tongue description, right?  You’re trying to show us that he’s concentrating. Unless Fiore is going to be the comic-relief type.  Then you might want to keep the tongue line and cut the eyes narrowing.  I don’t know the story enough to really make that call. 

Also adding that last part makes it seem like you’re disputing what came before it, which you really aren’t.  We already know that she’s cold and attempting to get some body heat from the angel.  No need to repeat it yet again here.  Her dialog shows us this well enough in the next paragraph. 

“Hurry up with that,” she told Fiore. He shot her a bruised look. It was the same stupid sulky-hurt expression he made whenever anyone commented on his inability to wear clothes that didn’t clash horribly. But he did have a wretched sense for colors.
Joanna: In reading this paragraph here, I can’t tell what kind of tone you’re going for with this story.  Based on the first couple of paragraphs, I would say more serious.  Based on this one, I would say much lighter.  Are you planning on a bit more of a chick-litty type voice?  Either way, the comment about the clothes feels out of place because it takes us out of the moment, which is them, hiding out in a cave, freezing, with an unconscious angel.


Joanna's Takeaway:


Overall, not a bad opening, and I probably would have read on another page or so to see if I could get a better grasp on the tone the author was going for (obviously if I've read a query, I might have had a better idea already--or maybe not--and I could see if the writer was staying consistent to that).  If it continued this way, with conflicting tones and not giving us some of the information we need to keep us interested (why are they hiding out? who are they hiding from? why do they have an angel with them?), I would have probably called it quits after a page or two.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Page Shooter #1

Word Count: 70,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Original Pages

Cherubim longed for a name; a label to give it shape and definition
like the seraphim it admired from a distance. Without a name it had no
solid form, and therefore no senses. Images and voices bounced in its
thoughts, painting a picture of their own.

It didn’t know if the other cherubim felt the same way. No one ever
talked about it, so it also kept silent. But Cherubim loved to linger
in the ethereal corridors of the creator’s heaven absorbing the
day-to-day of the angels with bodies, personalities, and genders. It
wondered what color eyes it would have. Would they be violet like
Gabriel’s or maybe sapphire blue like Michael’s? And what kind of
things would it be able to see with those eyes? Or feel with real
fingers?

“Little one.” The voice echoed in its head.

Cherubim sought out the owner, recognizing him as one of the creator’s
most powerful. Lucifer. It knew this one better than almost any. His
name struck awe and fear in any cherubim. He never interacted with
them; never gave them a reason to change their perspective.

It focused on the archangel, indicating its attention.

“I’ve seen you watching the seraphim.” His intent was difficult to read.

Was it in trouble? Cherubim tried to keep the fear at bay and failed.

“It’s all right. It’s why I’m talking to you. Would you like to be one of them?”

Really? It could have that? It would do anything for that.

Page with Suzie's Critique 

Cherubim longed for a name; a label to give it shape and definitionlike the seraphim it admired from a distance. Without a name it had no solid form, and therefore no senses. Images and voices bounced in its thoughts, painting a picture of their own.

Hmm...I'm a little confused and wary of this opening. What is "Cherubim"? I'm told it has no name, but it seems in this paragraph like Cheribum is its name. "Cherub" makes me think angel--as does "seraphim"--but I'm not sure why "no name" means no solid form. It's referred to as "it" and has no senses. But it has thoughts? Does it have personality? If I liked the description in the query, I would keep reading to see where this goes.

It didn’t know if the other cherubim felt the same way. No one ever talked about it, so it also kept silent. But Cherubim loved to linger in the ethereal corridors of the creator’s heaven absorbing the
day-to-day of the angels with bodies, personalities, and genders. I it
wondered what color eyes it would have. Would they be violet like
Gabriel’s or maybe sapphire blue like Michael’s? And what kind of
things would it be able to see with those eyes? Or feel with real
fingers?

The second line actually implies the first line. And the "but" doesn't work as a sentence starter because keeping silent and loving to linger don't really have much to do with each other. I'm also wary of overwritten descriptions--"the ethereal corridors of the creator's heaven" doesn't tell me anything I haven't imagined already so it doesn't do anything for me. Also how does Cherubim "absorb" anything? I do really like the speculation about the eye color.  That's a detail I can grab onto. Because I can understand why something with no physical form would wonder about that. The eye color is the first detail that makes me interest in Cherubim as a being.


“Little one.” The voice echoed in its head.

"Little one" seems generic and makes me think Cherubim is five or younger. Could a voice just echo in its head?

Cherubim sought out the owner, recognizing him as one of the creator’s
most powerful. Lucifer. It knew this one better than almost any. His
name struck awe and fear in any cherubim. He never interacted with
them; never gave them a reason to change their perspective.

I'm not sure this paragraph works. Lucifer striking awe and fear into anything isn't original. And if he never interacted with any Cherubim, why is he doing so now?

It focused on the archangel, indicating its attention.

“I’ve seen you watching the seraphim.” His intent was difficult to read.

How? If Cherubim doesn't have eyes or form, how does it "watch"? And does Cherubim understand "intent"?

Was it in trouble? Cherubim tried to keep the fear at bay and failed.

“It’s all right. It’s why I’m talking to you. Would you like to be one of them?”

Really? It could have that? It would do anything for that.

My biggest problem here, is that it's hard for me to connect with something that's an "it." I have trouble seeing Cherubim as anything--at least anything based on the words here. As a result I'm picturing this:




Which I'm pretty sure isn't what the author intended. I'm also not sure if Cherubim is an amorphous blob of nothing and I'm so focused on that, that I'm finding it hard to focus on what the page actually does say.


Also, there are a lot of angel stories right now that find their way into my query folder or my inbox. From this first page, this one doesn't seem to stand out or say anything different yet.


This makes me wonder if the story is starting in the right place. Could it just start after this, when Cherubim has a name and a form and a gender (I'm not sure why that's my particular hang up)? This could always be backstory.


As it is, I wouldn't keep reading.

Yet Another Update on First Page Shooter

Hello All--Joanna here!

I haven't yet expressed how excited I am about doing First Page Shooter--not only will this be a fun series to work on, but I hope, also a useful tool for writers.  Suzie and I have both already dived in and started reading.

And while I appreciate that most of you are equally excited, I would like to point out one thing: we are doing this in our free time. So while your suggestions for us to produce even more for the series are great, please understand that in doing so, First Page Shooter would become a full-time job.  And both Suzie and I already have one of those.

Suzie's first First Page will be up soon!

Me = stoked

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Update on First Page Shooter

I have an update! So far, as of this morning, First Page Shooter has received over 700 emails. This is of course really exciting. I was afraid no one would send any emails and this would be a bust. (I know, everyone keeps asking me why I was thinking that...)

Of course, the downside is that with so many emails, even if I post one a day and don't get any more, it's going to take me two years to do them all.

I don't want to discourage anyone from sending pages, but I do want to reiterate that just because the pages get sent doesn't mean they're going to get posted. Joanna and I will do our best to critique as many as we can.

Also, the first critique will go up on the blog on Wednesday 4/20 around 11:30 am. Anyone should feel free to comment on the post, as long as the comments are productive rather than simply negative. Comments can also disagree with the critique, again as long as they're productive. Any personal attacks will be deleted.

After reviewing the critique, if the author of the first page would like to revise and try again, her or she may do so, by resubmitting.

And finally, please keep in mind this critique is simply one agent's opinion, and one based solely on the first 250 words. It is not at all intended to be a comment on the author's writing ability as a whole. I of course believe in my own opinion, but it is my opinion alone.

So! Look for the first critique tomorrow.

Happy Release Day!

To the lovely and talented Hannah Moskowitz!


I. Love. This. Book.



Monday, April 18, 2011

Awesome First Pages! - Part II

When I put up the examples of first pages that I loved, I was concerned about trying to get different genres.  I wasn't thinking about a couple things--most noticeably my tastes.

I lean towards books written in first person.  I love some books written in third (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, omg, they're awesome), but a lot of my favorites are written in first.  But of course as soon as someone pointed that out, I knew exactly which books I was going to talk about.

Even though it might be harder to establish voice, character, tone, and conflict in the first page, you still should. And not every book does it. But in today's market, as a debut author, you have to stand out. A kickass first page will do that for you.

Horns by Joe Hill
(again, this is a must read. Just ask Brooks)


First two lines: "Ignatius William Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances."

The first page of Horns--and the first chapter (which is only half a page)--tell us almost immediately what kind of guy Ig is. We get backstory on page 2 which helps us realize why he is the way he is and how he became this guy, and of course we get more as the story goes on. But right in that first page, we know him and are interested in him. We also have the conflict--he wakes up with horns. We also know from the first page, there's something dark and supernatural at work and that this is fast paced. And as someone who picked this up thinking, "I might like this..." I read a little more and was totally hooked.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
(I love The Mortal Instruments Series. I can't even count how many subway stops I've missed, reading this books.)

First two lines: "'You've got to be kidding me,' the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest. He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head. 'You can't bring that thing in here.'"

This is a more subtle example than any of the other ones I've used. And though the main character (Clary Fray) is introduced on the first page, she's not introduced in the first line. And that's ok, because this first line sets up interest and intrigue and will keep readers going.  WHAT does this boy in the red zip-up jacket have that he can't bring into a club?  And of course a few lines down, Clary is introduced, along with her best friend Simon, and they're both awesome.


Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
(I love this book. Seriously.)


The first line: "A long time ago, in the spring before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed that he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere."

I wanted to use this example because 1) It's from a prologue which are often so boring that I skip them and 2) It's fantasy, one of the slowest genres to start in terms of plot. Yet, Finnikin of the Rock's first line and it's whole prologue (which is short, just a page) gives a quick sense of what the book will be about, gives us the most essential character trait of Finnikin himself (his sense of loyalty/responsibility to his kingdom), and begins building this amazing fantasy world.

***

Now, I also tend to read things that are a little darker. And sure it's easier to throw some blood on the first page and get the action going, but you can still hook your reader with a great character and voice--and a hint of the coming conflict--if your manuscript is lighter in tone.  Think of Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.


"I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty. My best friend Darcy and I came across a perpetual calendar in the back of the phone book, where you could look up any date in the future, and by using this little grid determine what the day of the week would be."

The first lines are brilliant because it establishes the character, a central problem with her life, and of course her best friend Darcy, and between that and the cover copy, readers know what the main conflict will be.

***

And of course the other question was about literary fiction. Which is tough for me to talk about. After all, one of my favorite novels of all time is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  Another is Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  Both of them are about so much more than just the plot. They're about the language, the symbolism, the depth of emotions underlying the text--they're about the bigger picture.

But at the same time, the classics that so many of us love and hold dear, they actually do usually begin with some kickass first lines.

Jane Austen anyone? 

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

This famous Pride and Prejudice establishes essentially the main plot (this is at heart, a love story) as well as the tone of the novel.

Here are some more first lines, all on one convenient website.

So how about some of the recently published literary fiction. Here are a few examples I dug up.

Callisto by Torsten Krol
(This is a Joanna favorite, so obviously a must read)


First lines: "My name is Odell Deefus. I am a white person, not black like you might think from hearing the name and not seeing me. If you did see me, you wouldn't remember me for my face, which isn't the kind to stick in anyone's mind, but you might remember me for being tall."

These lines obviously establish character. That's explicit.  The voice is there too though and it's there are definite traits about Odell that are clear from the way things are said, from the voice, not what we're being told.  And of course, as you keep reading the first page and the first chapter, you come to understand more about Odell and the journey he's on.

The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
(Another Joanna favorite)


First lines: "God is a slick God. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe."

The voice here is unmistakable.  It's different--you'll see just how different if you read on--and it's unique and it practically jumps off the page.  Nothing physical has happened yet but I'm intrigued to find out what has happened. Because it's obviously something.

***

And those are my thoughts.  Again, I'm going to stress that looking at the first pages of your favorite novels--and of new and popular debut novels in your genre--are going to be some of the best examples for you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Awesome First Pages!

So you have to hook your reader in the first few pages--especially as a debut author.  And really, if you can, you should try to hook them with the very first line.

UPDATE: I'm at a conference so I will do a post on Monday with a few great third person POV and literary fiction examples. It's true that third person is harder to show voice but it's still necessary.

Your first page should:

  1. Establish your character and the voice
  2. Establish the conflict and begin moving the story forward (ie plot)
  3. Establish the tone (Dark? Fluffy beach read?)
  4. Establish indication of the setting: (If it’s paranormal/fantasy/sci fi/historical, we should get a sense of this from the first pages)


*BONUS POINTS* for
Catching the reader off guard!

If your first lines can cause your reader to sit up closer and pay more attention, that’s what it means to effectively grab them or hook.


Alice Sebold is a MASTER at this.  Look at The Lovely Bones and her memoir Lucky, those first lines are brilliant.

Once you grab your readers with their first page, you're set. Now you’ll just have to keep them there.

Once I started reading a manuscript on the way home from work. I was on the train, and I booted up the kindle and started reading, and after a few lines, I literally sat up straighter and paid more attention. It was that good. (that manuscript was by Dan Krokos, by the way). That's what you want.

Some great examples:

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
(first, if you haven't read this yet, you must, seriously. Stop and go buy it right now.)

The first line: "So I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me!"

The first page hooks in readers and works because it totally establishes the voice. One of the best things (of many) about Beat the Reaper is the way Dr. Peter Brown's voice jumps off the page.  And the fact that he's not exactly your typical doctor.  The language, descriptions, and tone, all tell us within the first page that he's a guy you don't want to mess with--and a guy who we're going to be willing to follow.

You by Charles Benoit
(again, this is a book everyone should read)

The first line: "You're surprised at all the blood."

The first page hooks in readers and works because despite the unique storytelling (the book is written in second person POV), it establishes a mystery--something tense within the first scene, that will pull readers all the way through the book until the end where they'll find out what actually happened in that first scene.  And of course, it's not at all what they'll be expecting.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
(another one of my favorites!)

The first line: "I stiffened at the red and blue lights flashing behind me, because there was no way I could explain what was in the back of my truck."

The first page hooks in readers and works because we're introduced to our heroine, who comes across as an anti hero. (She has a body in her truck bed). But it also establishes the paranormal aspect of the novel. (The body is a dead vampire). Also within the first two pages, we understand a lot about our protagonist, the town she lives in, and her extracurricular activities.


For writers, this means...

You have essentially two goals in your first page.
  1. Create Interest
  2. Create Investment
You want your readers to be interested in where your story is going and invested in the characters who are going to be on that journey with them.

So again, feel free to send your first 250 words to firstpageshooter@gmail.com for your chance to be critiqued.  The first critiques will go up next week!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Contest Winner - INVINCIBLE SUMMER

Congrats to everyone who entered the INVINCIBLE SUMMER contest. They entries were awesome and I had so much fun reading them!!

The "You Know Exactly How I Feel" Entry:
hopejunkie @5:17 pm


Best use of the Camus quote: 
Jen @10:56 am

Best use of people from Suite 500:
Melissa Peagler @1:07 pm

Sad but Beautiful:
Super Happy Jen @1:31 pm


Most Creative use of my typo:
Kim Roberts @1:52 pm

Best Dialogue:
sprunty @11:57 pm


Best Teen Boy Voice:
N. Alexander @11:14 pm

Best Strong Woman:
Kelly @7:36  am

Darkest and Most Haunting Descriptions:
abrielle1 @3:29 pm

and the winner is...

Lynn(e)
It was the beach where I’d had sex for the first time. I was seventeen and we weren’t in love. I think the worst part was that we both knew it. I walked home, alone, and found sand in places I didn’t even know I’d had. When I stayed in my room for a million days, my family assumed I’d gotten too much sun. An entire week passed before I crawled out of bed to find Wes at my doorstep. It was with him that I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.


I love how raw and real it feels, and the last line gave me chills!

Lynn(e) send me an email with your address, and I'll send you your copy of Invincible Summer!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Page Shooter

There are so many resources out there for writers. Industry blogs, forums and websites comparing agents, advice from writers.  But it occurred to us there's something that might be missing.

As agents, we have to be grabbed by the very first page of a writer's manuscript. And that manuscript has to continue holding onto us all the way to the end.

Sometimes we get great queries, with concepts that sound fantastic, and then we read the first pages...and end up disappointed. Sometimes we don't even make it to the end of the first page before we decide to pass.

Which means that first page is just as important as your query.

About six months ago, I did a first pages intensive workshop at a writer's conference, and I looked at the first two pages of several of my favorite published books, and then I looked at the first two pages of the writers in the workshop and told them where I'd stop reading and why.

Friday, I'll write about first pages that work in different genres, and then I want to hear from you.

Starting today, anyone who's brave enough can send me the first 250 words of their manuscript (email firstpageshooter@gmail.com), and either Joanna or I will provide editorial feedback.

For more details, see the links on the sidebar.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Contest Winner! LATE ECLIPSES

Wow, I loved reading all these entries--awesome job to everyone who participated!

Best Sci Fi
Super Happy Jen at 2:55 pm

Most Creative Use of the Words (I totally want a fortune cookie that says something that Shakespearean)
Josin L McQuein at 4:30 pm

Most non-Sharkly use of Janet
africa2asia at 10:10 pm

Best Descriptions
Eliza Faith at 6:24 pm
and
Christina Auret at 12:01 am

Best Last Line
Tara Tyler at 5:06 pm
and
Cayleigh at 6:01 pm

Runner Up
Josh at 11:52 am

And the winner is...


Shykia!
The scythe of revenge is sharp. Rosemary is the bearer and we shall surely pay for our transgressions in blood before dawn. The night air is saturated with the soapy scent of freesia and it intensifies as she draws nearer. It triggers the memory of the dirty deed we carried out in late October. We expelled her from her physical habitation once we discovered what she was; pure evil, shrouded in flesh and artificial kindness. Little did we know, our perceptions were skewed. Our flawed decision had ignited a fire that can only be quelled by human sacrifice.

Congratulations to everyone. Shykia, send me an email with your address and I'll send you a copy of the book!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who Wants an INVINCIBLE SUMMER?

Hannah Moskowitz's sophomore novel is out April 19th! But I have an early copy here for someone!






Here's what you've have to do.

Write a story, one hundred words or fewer, using these words:

Beach
Sun
Family
Love
Sex

Bonus Points if you use the phrase "I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer"

Contest open internationally. It starts NOW, and runs through midnight Friday April 8th. Post your entry in the comments section.

Enter as many times as you want.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Have you checked out the Write Hope auction yet? You should.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?