Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Not So Grand Opening

"It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled like a pack of dogs and the rain pelted the windsheild of the racing car. Darkness shrouded the forest in mystery and...yeah I stopped reading at the first 'was'!

Whoever decided to teach children to write fiction by starting with a prompt like "It was a dark and stormy night" should be drowned in their own ink.

Nathan Bransford, former literary agent and current author and guru, posted a blog contest this week offering tantalizing prizes for a great opening paragraph. Over a 1,500 paragraphs appeared in his comments. HERE is the blog post.

Of the 500 or more that I read there were probably 8 of them that stood out. It is an excellent exercise in being a literary agent and seeing what comes into the inbox everyday. Check out the openings and see if you can spot the ones worthy of being finalists.

Also note the similarity in the threads on the market right now. Are you writing a ghost book? Is your main character dead? Hmmm.


  1. I read more than 500 and I can tell you the two trends that bothered me the most:
    The panoramic view of the world. "The grass covered hill looked serene as sunlight rose from beyond the mountains. Birds chirped happily in the distance, amongst the tall evergreens of the forest. The scent of freshly baked bread captured the attention of passers by. A woman, tall and beautiful walked over the hill and toward the village, a brown bag thrown over her shoulder and a sparkle in her violet blue eyes."
    And then there's the set up. "I've always known Billy Bob was trouble, so I keep asking myself why I got in the cab of his truck when he rolled up that December day."

  2. I hate contests that focus so much on such a small excerpt of writing. One paragraph isn't enough to really see the kind of writer you are for two reasons: #1 anyone can write ONE really excellent paragraph. #2 anyone can write ONE really crappy paragraph.