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Posts tagged with: openings

OPENING A CAN OF FLATWORMS

To open a can of flat worms you need a nail, hammer and a flat-head screwdriver. The extraction should be done outside, because flat worms are smelly buggers, and man, can they move fast.  You wouldn’t want to find them slithering between the sheets later. They like 800 count Egyptian cotton.

 

Did I get your attention? Good because that is what this post is about, openings which grab you and hold on.

 

There is no one set rule for beginning your story. Story telling is an art and as we have seen countless times since woman first poked her man to pick up a chisel and strike rock that the artist who breaks the presumed rules and creates in a heartfelt manner is remembered long after his or her demise.  With that said, it is important to remember the purpose of starting a story.  A story is a journey. The reason for any passage is to reach a destination. Finding excitement, joy, wisdom, or love along the way, is a huge plus and makes the trip an enjoyable adventure.  And who doesn’t love an adventure.

 

Our job, as an author, is to create a beginning that will entice our readers to come along for the ride. But how do we convince them our story is the excursion for them?  From our first line and every line after, we show them that the world we’ve built is interesting, we introduce them to characters they can relate to and root for as they change and grow, and we intrigue them with a story line that lets the reader escape from their own world.

 

I don’t know about you, but I agonize over my opening. I did for this blog and I’m still thinking I could do better. I think my first line is the most rewritten line of any. A great hook is a must. The line can be action or dialogue or internalization, as long as it is intriguing and sets the tone of the story.  And more often than not, my first draft opening (which could be one or more chapters) ends in the trash or finds a place somewhere else in the book.  Openings are hard.

 

The following is my short list for writing a great opening.

 

1)    Openings should introduce the main character because the first character presented to a reader is usually the one they bond with.  Connection is key. Characters need to be flawed and they need to do something we could do ourselves. So if you kill that character off, you better be writing romantic suspense and/or have a reason for doing so. The reader will be leery of investing in another character.

 

However, shocking the reader is another way to drawn them into the story.  Choice your POV carefully when writing the scene this way.

 

2)    The author reveals secrets, asks an intriguing question or creates high stakes.  GMC, right?  I always think of Romancing The Stone when thinking about this one.  In the first moments of the movie we learn Jean Widler’s heart’s desire— to have a hero of her own— and that her sister’s life is put at risk. The screenwriter used all three.  What’s the third you ask?  Will Joan answer the call to adventure?

 

3)    Introduce the reader to a strange new world in little interesting bits, so that they want to learn more. This advice is not just for paranormal or fantasy authors.  Every world written is different from the ones in which we live, in some ways. Every section of New York City is unique.  Your world could be a planetary station, small town in USA, large city, foreign soil, somewhere in the future or the past. Build the world through different characters’ POV. I see walking through the forest as enjoyable and relish the coolness and peace, but someone else could see it as frightening, looking for snakes and bears and slapping at deer flies. Also, remember we came to learn our world through our senses.

 

 

4)    An author can briefly start their story in the ordinary world.  The optimum word here is briefly. Once, I heard an editor panel discussion where they stated that by page two you better turn the character’s world upside down with an enticing incident or you’re done.  Editors don’t have time for more and readers want to escape now. Not after the character gets up, has breakfast, takes the bus to work, greets her co-workers, etc.  That is boring.  Drop into the story near the moment everything changes and make the disruptive incident so unpleasant your characters will want to turn back time and gain their safe world back.

 

5)    The opening should show your voice.  This part of the promise you are making to your readers.  You don’t want to open with a comic scene and then the follow chapters turn dark. The dark element should be part of your opening, if that’s the case.  If it’s not, you might need to rethink opening POV or ditch the scene altogether.

 

6)    Don’t use the opening for an information dump on character’s backstory.  Reveal bits of necessary information over the length of the book.

 

Okay, that is my short checklist.  Does anyone else have suggestions for making  openings great? Oh, and FTW, I have no experience with flatworms.

 

Visit Autumn at www.autumnjordon.com . Her new release Seized By Darkness is available on Amazon and B&N.

 

Make It Golden Contest – Winners Announced!

Wow, finalists—you made this hard for us!!!

First, we asked for attention-grabbing opening lines, and got 100 outstanding candidates.

Then the Rubies narrowed the list to their favorite ten, and the authors had one day to give us more of the opening: a maximum of 250 words.

The entries lived up to the promise of their first lines: we were hooked, and wished we could read more of every one!

But in the end, we had to pick just three—not an easy task.  The polls kept shifting through the weekend, and in the end, TWO were tied for third place.  Which means we’ve got FOUR winners!

The two Third Place winners get a ruby-slipper journal to pen even more fabulous romance novel openings. Our Second Place winner gets a $20 bookstore gift certificate (Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner’s choice):

And our First Place winner gets the Grand Prize: the Rubies pay the author’s Golden Heart entry fee!

And as good as our First Place winner is, that’s a perfect fit, since we think this author (not to mention the rest of our top ten!) should be entering the Golden Heart prontissimo….

For maximum suspense, the winners are announced from Third Place to First….after the jump.

Make It Golden Contest – Finalists Announced!

Holy guacamole—what fabulous first lines!!

The Rubies read them all, and were amazed by the variety and creative awesomeness; we’re dying to know what happens next in all these stories!!!

Thanks to the power of voting, we did manage to narrow the field down from ONE HUNDRED to only ten.  Well, actually eleven, because voting was super-tight, and we had a four-way tie for the last three places.

Even with that extra finalist, it truly pained us to leave so many fabulous entries behind—we’d love to read expanded versions of every single one, and can’t wait to see those sentences opening your published books!

For today, though, only ten (or, okay, actually eleven) can return to the field of battle.

The Top-Ten Top-Eleven First Round Finalists will appear (in RANDOM ORDER) when you click on the double arrow button below.

If you see your first line, that’s your cue to enter your EXPANDED entry in one of the Comments boxes below today’s post. Include your first line again, then the following few sentences until you reach a *maximum* of 250 total words. Please put the word ENTRY in all caps at the top again (and, no, that doesn’t count as one of your 250 words). Remember, if you go over 250 words, you’re disqualified, so COUNT CAREFULLY!!

Expanded entries must be entered by MIDNIGHT EDT on September 27 to qualify for the final round.

Thanks to EVERYONE who entered!!!

DRUMROLL PLEASE!!!!! THE TOP TEN FIRST-ROUND FINALISTS ARE:

Make It Golden Contest – Post Your Entries!

The Second Annual MAKE IT GOLDEN CONTEST opens right now!!

The MAKE IT GOLDEN contest is designed for unpublished authors who are polishing up their entries for RWA’s Golden Heart Contest. We all know how important a strong opening line is in grabbing the attention of Golden Heart judges, and this contest is a great chance to test yours out!

Check out the wonderful and hilarious 2010 finalists here.

Just post your romance manuscript’s first line today as a comment (with the word ENTRY in all caps at the top),  and you’re in the running to win the grand prize: having the Rubies pay your $50 Golden Heart entry fee. And don’t forget the nearly infinite honor and glory! (Full prize list and complete rules follow below).

Anyone eligible to enter the 2012 Golden Heart (see RWA’s rules here) is eligible to enter (except Rubies, of course), and the best part is, there’s no entry fee. It’s COMPLETELY FREE to enter, but only the FIRST ONE HUNDRED ENTRIES CAN QUALIFY, so don’t dawdle!! Multiple entries by the same author are fine, but no repeats of entries that were finalists last year.

Even though they can’t enter the contest, Rubies are welcome to post first lines just ’cause it would be fun to see them!

UPDATE 7:30 p.m. EST: WOW!!! What an amazing day, and what amazing opening lines!!  We’re definitely over 100 entries now, so the contest is CLOSED!  (We have to go through and count carefully and eliminate any entries disqualified for being more than one sentence…when that’s done, we’ll let you know where the cut-off came).  Now for the really hard part: trying to decide on our top ten!! Thanks to all who entered!

PRIZES:

FIRST PLACE: $50 Golden Heart entry fee paid for you by the Rubies!!

SECOND PLACE: $20 Amazon gift certificate

THIRD PLACE: a glittering Ruby Slipper journal

 

Official Rules of the Make It Golden Contest – READ CAREFULLY:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday September 23, we will accept one hundred entries for the contest, each containing the FIRST line of the entrant’s romance manuscript.

Submit your entry via the “comment” box on the blog, typing in the word ENTRY in all caps at the top so we won’t miss it.

There is no entry fee. Anyone eligible to enter RWA’s Golden Heart Contest (except Rubies) is eligible to enter MAKE IT GOLDEN.

We will close to entries at midnight EST September 23 (in other words, the window is roughly 24 hours). Any entries that include words past the end of that first sentence, or any entries posted after midnight will (sadly) be disqualified.

The Sisters will read the first lines and choose ten finalists.

Ten finalists will be listed on the blog at 12:01 a.m. EST on Tuesday September 27th. ENTRANTS SHOULD CHECK THE RUBY BLOG AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE ON TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27 TO FIND OUT IF THEY HAVE FINALED. It is entirely the entrant’s responsibility to check the blog to see if he or she is a finalist.

The ten chosen finalists will have the rest of the day, until 12 midnight EST on September 27 (in other words, almost 24 hours), to post an expanded entry, starting with that fabulous first sentence, and continuing with the next consecutive lines up to a MAXIMUM TOTAL of 250 words. (Really, a maximum of 250. Any more than that, and we have to disqualify the entry.) Again type ENTRY in caps and post, along with your first sentence, the expanded entry.

The three winners will be announced on the blog October 3rd.

MAKE IT GOLDEN CONTEST – Update Announcement!!

Yes, Loyal Readers, it’s nearly the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Blog’s SECOND birthday, and we’re celebrating big-time all along the yellow brick road! Our official Birthday Bash is on September 21st, and just like last year, WE’LL be the ones giving away the gifts! Be sure to grab a glass of virtual champagne and join us for the festivities!!

Then, on September 23rd, we’ll be repeating our MAKE IT GOLDEN CONTEST , and giving all of you a terrific chance to shine (plus have a chance to earn more great prizes!!)

As you may remember from last year, the MAKE IT GOLDEN contest is designed for unpublished authors who are polishing up their entries for RWA’s Golden Heart Contest–the contest that brought the Ruby Sisters together when we were finalists together in 2009.

We all know how important a strong opening line is in grabbing the attention of Golden Heart judges, and this contest is a great chance to test yours out!

Check out the wonderful and hilarious 2010 finalists here.  (And may we point out–with a lovely little glow of pride–that finalist Arlene Hittle did indeed go on to be named a finalist in Golden Heart 2011.)

Finalists and winners from last year are welcome to enter again, BUT ALL ENTRIES MUST BE NEW!!

PRIZES:

FIRST PLACE: $50 Golden Heart entry fee paid for you by the Rubies!!

SECOND PLACE: $20 Amazon gift certificate

THIRD PLACE: a glittering Ruby Slipper journal

Anyone eligible to enter the 2012 Golden Heart (see RWA’s rules here) is eligible to enter (though, of course, Rubies are not eligible), and the best part is, there’s no entry fee.

In other words, it’s FREE!!

All you need to do to enter is follow the official rules, below:

Official Rules of the Make It Golden Contest – READ CAREFULLY:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday September 23, we will accept one hundred entries for the contest, each containing the FIRST line of the entrant’s romance manuscript.

Submit your entry via the “comment” box on the blog, typing in the word ENTRY in all caps at the top so we won’t miss it.

There is no entry fee.

We will close to entries at midnight the same day. Any entries that include words past the end of that first sentence, or any entries posted after midnight will (sadly) be disqualified.

ONLY NEW ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED. NO REPEATS FROM LAST YEAR, PLEASE!!!

The Sisters will read the first lines and choose ten finalists.

Ten finalists will be listed on the blog at 12:01 a.m. EST on Tuesday September 27th. ENTRANTS SHOULD CHECK THE RUBY BLOG AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE ON TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27 TO FIND OUT IF THEY HAVE FINALED. It is entirely the entrant’s responsibility to check the blog to see if he or she is a finalist.

The ten chosen finalists will have the rest of the day, until 12 midnight EST on September 27 (in other words, almost 24 hours), to post an expanded entry, starting with that fabulous first sentence, and continuing with the next consecutive lines up to a MAXIMUM TOTAL of 250 words. (Really, a maximum of 250. Any more than that, and we have to disqualify the entry.) Again type ENTRY in caps and post, along with your first sentence, the expanded entry.

The three winners will be announced on the blog October 3rd.

______________________________________________________________

In other news, Loyal Readers, here’s some more trivia about the Rubies that you just might want to have handy during our Birthday Bash on September 21:

3 Rubies have fallen out of speeding cars.  

Sara Ramsey worked in India

Louisa Cornell is a retired opera singer and sang for Luciano Pavarotti.

Hope Ramsay’s books are set in a small town in South Carolina.

Ruby Beth Langston is a veteran.

Announcing the 2012 MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest!!

September is the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s BIRTHDAY month! Consider this your invitation to join us for a fabulous birthday bash (with fabulous giveaways!!) on the second anniversary of our blog, September 21!

As part of our celebration, we’re going to repeat last year’s wonderful MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest!

Official Rules of the Make It Golden Contest – READ CAREFULLY:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday September 23, we will accept one hundred entries for the contest, each containing the FIRST line of a romance manuscript.

Submit your entry via the “comment” box on the blog, typing in the word ENTRY in all caps at the top so we won’t miss it.

We will close to entries at midnight the same day. Any entries that include words past the end of that first sentence, or any entries posted after midnight will (sadly) be disqualified.

ONLY NEW ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED. NO REPEATS FROM LAST YEAR, PLEASE!!!

The Sisters will read the first lines and choose ten finalists.

FINALISTS SHOULD CHECK BACK ON THE RUBY BLOG AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE ON TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27 TO FIND OUT IF THEY HAVE FINALED.

The ten chosen finalists have until midnight on September 27 to post an expanded entry, starting with that fabulous first sentence, and continuing with the next consecutive lines up to a MAXIMUM TOTAL of 250 words. (Really, a maximum of 250. Any more than that, and we have to disqualify the entry.)

This contest is open to anyone eligible to enter the Golden Heart, except that Ruby Sisters are not eligible.

There is no entry fee.

Part One of the contest opens 12:01 am EST September 23rd.

Contest is limited to the first 100 entries posted in the comments that day.

Ten first-round finalists will be announced on the blog 12:01 am EST Tuesday September 27th. Finalists are responsible for checking the blog to see if they have finaled.

First-round finalists will have the rest of the day on Tuesday September 27th (until midnight EST) to post the remaining words of their expanded entries. Again type ENTRY in caps and post, along with your first sentence, the expanded entry. TOTAL words may not exceed two hundred fifty.

The three winners will be announced on the blog October 3rd.

PRIZES TO BE ANNOUNCED!

The First Five Pages…and the Red Line of Death

As Golden Heart entries are wrapping up and being sent in, GH hopefuls are naturally re-focusing onto the next step – querying and submitting. I wanted to zone in on the approach that changed my querying process for the better.

After getting form rejection after form rejection, I made this conclusion: Agents were not reading past the first page.

The Latest Comments

  • Laurie Kellogg: What a wonderful post, Beth. I hope your book helps to educate the public on the challenges of Autism.
  • Kate Parker: Lovely post, Beth. And yes, romance writers are very supportive, even of mystery writers!
  • Elizabeth Langston: So many people could be thanked, but it’s nice to get an opportunity to give a special word...
  • Julia Day: Yes, and you’ve been great and supportive, too. I can thank you enough!
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