The First Sentence

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How important is the first sentence? A Writers Path had a recent post on the importance of the first sentence setting the tone for the entire story. That blog also had a similar post on The Importance of a Great Literary First Impression.

Aeryn Rudel of Rejectomancy had a post as well where he analyzed the first lines from his stories that were published last year. And The Write, Already! blog recently had a series of posts promoting John Brueckner’s “892 Opening Lines” book. There’s even a publication dedicated to the first sentence called, not so coincidentally, The First Line. I’ve posted previously about that publication.

I also recall an editor of Asimov’s or Analog year’s ago discussing how important the first sentence was. What I recall, whether I remember correctly or not, essentially was if the first sentence didn’t grip him, it had little chance of being purchased.

Clearly, this is on a lot of people’s minds. So have I practiced this philosophy? I’ve certainly tried with varying amounts of success. I’ve also tried to vary my approach. Sometimes the first line is dialogue. Other times it’s the narrator speaking.

To date my favorite is from a story I’m still shopping around. Indeed, I hope to use it as the lead story in my short story collection submitted to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. (I wrote about this contest here.) The line is: “The naked man ran screaming from the room.” Don’t you want to read on to know why he is both naked and screaming? I thought so; I haven’t gotten an editor to bite yet though.

Do you try to nail that first line before proceeding with a story, or do you not worry about it? Do you have any first lines you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.

 

Bouncing Around

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I’ve been bouncing around a lot these days. I’ve lacked focus on any of my writing. I’ve even put off submitting those works that have received a rejection. So what gives? Good question. I don’t know.

According to Word, I haven’t worked on my WIP novel in over a month. I’ve finished three flash stories though, and I’m one scene away from finishing the novella I thought I’d finish last summer. That’s some progress, I guess.

I feel like I’m waiting for something, which is probably the wrong approach. If there is any upside, it’s by not resubmitting my stories, I have a catalogue worth I can combine into a collection for the contest mention in Submission Dilemma III. Needless to say, I’m going for it. I’ll spend the $25 on the submission fee and take my chances.

But, first, I need to finish the novella. The submission guidelines say no story should be longer than 15,000 words. The novella is longer but already broken down into a couple stories. I estimate the longest of those stories will come in just under 15,000 words. Regardless, I plan to spread the individual stories out in the collection to build tension.

Collecting my stories into a single work will reduce my number of submissions for the year while I wait to hear back from the contest, but I’m okay with that. I like the idea of having a collected works manuscript. Now I just need to finish the novella and organize the collection before the April 15 deadline.

How has your writing focus been lately? Have you been productive, or are you finding distractions? Let me know in the comments.

Submission Dilemma III

I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.

More Shameless Self Promotion

It finally happened. The Virginia Writers Club got its act together and posted not only the winners of the 2018 Golden Nib Writing Contest but also the winning entries. The collected winners can be found here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I took third place in the nonfiction category. I was happy to get that. I had written my short essay (under 1000 words) for another market, which didn’t accept it, and only put it in for consideration in last year’s contest on a lark. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Having focused on speculative fiction, I’m not sure what other nonfiction markets are out there for this type of essay.

Now as the 2019 president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the club, I’m excluded from participating in this year’s contest. I’m not terribly upset by this, though I am pleased that winners going forward will finally be announced and their works posted, which was supposed to be a selling point of the contest from the start.

Peruse the other winners and see what you think. You can let me know what you think about mine as well. I can take it.

Post #45 – Award Winning Author

11/1/18

I received a call last month informing me I won third place in the Virginia Writers Club‘s Golden Nib contest. The club will officially announce the winners tomorrow night at its annual meeting, which I already planned to attend. Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I spilled the beans early.

I’ve written about this contest before in Posts 8 & 29. Submitting a short story to last year’s contest was one of the reasons I joined the Northern Virginia chapter of the Club.

This year I skipped submitting a piece in the fiction category but submitted pieces in the nonfiction and poetry categories. The nonfiction work is the one that placed third.

I chose not to submit a fiction piece because I considered that a waste. For one, I didn’t want a story tied up for three months while I awaited the results. I also didn’t want to give up first publication rights to anything I have available. I’d rather retain those rights in the hope a pro or semi-pro market wants to buy the story. Lastly, I didn’t really have anything available to submit.

If I remember correctly, at the deadline, all of my fiction stories were out at other markets. I pretty much chose not to withhold anything earlier in the year in anticipation of submitting to the Golden Nib, and instead kept sending out stories to new markets immediately after each rejection.

But I didn’t feel the same way about my nonfiction and poetry. I’ve only written two in the former category and one in the latter. I didn’t have markets in mind for either the nonfiction piece or poem, so submitting them to the Golden Nib contest seemed appropriate.

Now I’m an award winning author! But is that a thing? Third place in the VWC Golden Nib contest isn’t quite on par with the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust. Win those and you truly are an award winning author.

I know other authors tout their award winning status, but I’m not sure I feel the need to do so in this context. I’m not sure it gets me anywhere. It doesn’t help me reach my goal of three pro sales for SFWA membership.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I win first place next year. Or maybe when I win the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust.

Let me know in the comments when you think it’s worth trumpeting an award as an author.

Photo credit: 3dman_eu via Pixabay