Various and Sundry, part 2

I’ve been super busy with projects at work, so I’ve had little time to blog. Today I want to pop into your day and invite you to send me the first sentences (up to a first paragraph) from your current work-in-progress. Post it in the comments section and whoever wishes can react to them. I’ll offer up an opinion too. The pivotal question we’ll all be asking is “Would I keep reading to see what comes next?”

Second, I want to make sure you check out these YouTube spots by James Scott Bell. Clicking below on “Watch on YouTube” will allow you to see Jim’s other spots in the right hand margin of the YouTube page. These are great. Jim is doing a great service for us all. I hope he does more.

I think next time I’ll talk about “the tingle.” Stay tuned for that!

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32 Responses to Various and Sundry, part 2

  1. Rick Barry November 21, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Okay, Nick, here are my opening sentences. Feel free to shred them!

    Without being obvious, Katherine eyed Roger Greene. Yes, her passenger was attractive with his wavy hair, dimpled cheeks, square chin, and obviously muscular physique. In the taxi, his sense of humor had struck her as adorable. But…
    Katherine’s doubts loomed like thunder clouds. What is he? The man of her dreams? An actor worthy of an Oscar? A psycho?

  2. Lynn Dean November 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks for a great opportunity! Here’s my opening paragraph:

    Eyes wide, fingers rigid, Millie Pickens clutched the quilt below her chin, listening. Whatever sound had awakened her was now lost on the other side of the boundary between sleep and consciousness. She exhaled soundlessly, watching the cloud her breath formed in the lean-to.

  3. Dana E November 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Here ya go (this is my MG w-i-p). Thanks for the You tube clip. (I am currently trying to work through some frustration in my chapter 4.)

    San Angelo, Texas, 1952

    It was a day like any other summer day in San Angelo – hot, dry, and full of possibilities. Today was the day Raymond and I were going to ride the dam. This was not just any dam, but the longest dam in the world. I never questioned this fact, but simply understood that if it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

  4. Marcy Weydemuller November 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Those clips are great. Here’s one version of my opening. Thanks!

    As Aline turned from the rugged coast road down the lane home, she immediately saw the bare metal mustang parked across from her driveway.

    “Oh no, not today, I can’t handle this today.”

  5. Nick November 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    For me, all four of the above are on the right track. That is, they do set up some sort of situation that attempts to pull me in.

    Rick, the only thing that might make me wince is the stereotypical wavy hair, dimples, square chin, and good build. The square chin is particuarly jarring (to me). I’d almost prefer her to question whether his good looks were “young George Clooney” good looks or “Justin Timberlake good looks.” Just anything to move away from the descriptions we’ve come to expect.

    Lynn, you too are on the right track. I’d change either sound or soundlessly to avoid repetition.

    Dana, normally I recoil at references to the weather or the landscape in an opening, but yours is okay. Although you might move that down a tad. You do have the word “dam” three times in that short opening. I’d try to recast that. When we write, we need to hear with our inner ear what the reader will hear. Repeating words can be distracting to the inner ear.

    Capitalize Mustang and it’s fine. You do repeat “today” but in the context, I guess it’s okay.

    Others feel free to weigh in. We’re all tough-skinned here, right?

  6. Nick November 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Here’s one from author Murray Pura:

    He had never realized, Liam Wingate thought in shock as he stood with the smoking pistol in his hand, how loud a gun could sound in a small room or how sweet a kiss could taste when no one woman had kissed you in 44 years.

  7. Nick November 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Murray, I love the opening. I would tempted to put a period after “small room.” That gets my attention. I might find a way to recast the second part of that sentence into a new sentence.

  8. Carla Hendricks November 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Hey Nick! I met you at Mount Hermon last year and enjoy your blog. Anyway, this is my first try at nonfiction. A rough draft of my first two paragraphs.

    The signs are everywhere. Six is the new sixteen.

    I see the signs in the flashy lavender sign advertising the new “Princess Nails” salon in my small southern town. Likewise girls’ fashions, which more closely resemble teens and women’s fashions, tell the same story. The signs are also evident in birthday party venues. The same birthday parties that doting parents hosted for their little girls at Chuck E. Cheese’s and the local bowling alley just a decade ago, now grace the likes of “Princess Nails” and its dazzling sister-shops across the country.

  9. S.C. Bailey November 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    If not for Sarah, Julian would have stopped living long ago. He locked fingers with hers and leaned his head against the cold stone. Neither could recall life before their capture, but somehow Julian knew it was his fault. He closed his eyes as her song rose softly over the deadly waters of the Dark Sea, and for a few fleeting moments Julian dared to dream.

  10. Rebecca LuElla Miller November 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks for the opportunity, Nick. I’ve been in search for the write opening line ever since you taught a workshop at Mt. Hermon which included the subject. BTW, I think the ones posted earlier than mine would lure me to read more. I thought Lynn’s in particular did a good job creating tension.

    Here’s mine from Hunted.

    On the basketball court, Jim Thompson expected trash talk. Here in his parents’ beach-side condo, not so much.

  11. Joyce A. Scott November 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Okay, this is from my fairytale, No Ordinary Hero

    All I had to do was win the fair maiden, best the wizard, and kill the dragon. No mean feat for someone only three inches tall.

  12. Tami Meier November 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Okay Nick, I have two entries. Sorry, the last one is a little long. Smile.

    1. Holiday Hospitality/Nonfiction/Gift Book, By Tami Meier:

    Christmas is an invitation to welcome family and friends to come together and experience the joys of holiday hospitality. The invitation is truly the key in preparing for this wonderful time of the year. An invitation sends a message of not only pertinent information, as to what, when, and where, but it is really saying: Please prepare—prepare your heart to come.

    2. The Movie, Writer’s Block, By Tami Meier

    The start of the movie:
    (A man and his daughter came to visit. Excited to meet a new friend, I showed her to my room. We sat Indian style and I picked up a book.)
    “Can you read?”
    “Yes!” (I proclaimed, as I opened up the book and proceed to look at the pictures to tell the story. I read, as if I knew the book well. The little girl looked up at me as if I were really reading. Then she stated,)
    “You didn’t really read that book, did you?”
    (I closed the book.) “Yes, I did!”
    (Walking into the kitchen, her father was about to cook a pot of hot cereal. He lifted up the box, pointed and asked me,)
    “Can you read the directions on how to make the cereal?”
    I remember looking at the back of the box and seeing a picture of a pan with steam coming up. Quiet and unable to answer, he pressed,
    “Can you read this?”
    “You can’t read? How old are you?”
    Then, with a somewhat prideful and shocked look on his face, he dared to say,
    “My daughter can read, and she is two years younger than you!”
    Relishing at the fact that his little girl was smarter than I, I stood humiliated and embarrassed—not knowing what to say. Never before, had it occurred to me that I could not read.

  13. Marcy Weydemuller November 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Thanks Nick. I can never remember which cars get capitalized and which stay lower case. So, it looks like the brand–Mustang–but van or jeep or limo not unless a particular make.

  14. Rick Barry November 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Thanks for the input, Nick. Objective critiques from an editor’s desk are invaluable. I’ll revise accordingly!

  15. Sally Apokedak November 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I liked all of these beginnings. They are compelling.

    I have such a hard time with beginnings. I try to get the character and conflict painted within the first three paragraphs, but when I take my sentences apart, they all seem pretty boring.

    Here’s the first paragraph of my WIP:

    The carriage hit a bump, tossing Elena a few inches off the cushioned seat and causing her stomach to float up, and sink back down as she landed again. “By a bearded lizard’s belly, that was the best yet,” she said, laughing.

  16. Nick November 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    Carla, I’m having a hard time placing myself there. Maybe it’s just me or maybe I’m not the target reader. I can’t quite picture it.

    S.C. this sounds like a fantasy novel. If so, you’re starting with the characters and I like that.

    Rebecca, I like yours very much!

    Joyce, yours works well.

    Tami, the gift book is nice. The movie I’m not sure about. I’d have to see it visually, I guess.

    Sally, it’s probably just me, but the stomach floating up and sinking down doesn’t work. The rest of it does though. It lets us see a bit of Elena’s personality right off the bat. I like that.

  17. Carla Hendricks November 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Nick, my nonfiction book examines how our culture encourages young girls to grow up too fast and is targeted to moms of preschool and elementary school age girls. But your response is well noted since I won’t necessarily be pitching my idea to editors/agents in my target audience. Back to the drawing board!

    Thanks for your time. And thanks for your regular advice through your blog.

  18. Nick November 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Carla, maybe start with a mother/daughter shopping and show the struggle that occurs when the daughter starts in with “but ALL my friends are wearing that!”

  19. S.C. Bailey November 22, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Thank you for your comments Nick. I agree with Rick, invaluable. Yes, this is a YA Christian Fantasy. Happy Thanksgiving from a fellow Mississippian. Suzanne

  20. Rebecca LuElla Miller November 22, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Nick, thank you for your feedback. Reading all your comments is helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time.


  21. Dana E November 22, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks, Nick! I know I can rid of at least one of them. Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Tami Meier November 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks Nick,
    The intensity of this movie does build from here, but to focus on the question… Will the reader or viewer want to know more? Do these starts peak your interest as an editor and reader to want to read more?
    I think it may have been you or Chip MacGregor who recently directed his or your bloggers to read through a list of famous first liners. About half way through the list, these words popped in my mind. “Can you read?” “Call me Ishmael.” Listen to the similar sounds. I wanted to start the movie with these three words, “Can you read?” But it may need to start with the two adults at the door showing that they know each other by saying: “Hi Bill, come on in. I just about got your job done.” (The girls head off one way to the bedroom and the dad’s to the office. Then while the main character is reading to her new friend, back in the office, there is a scene where the visiting dad says: “Jerry, we left the house early this morning and I did not get a chance to feed my daughter breakfast, do you have some hot cereal I can cook up?”
    Jerry says: “Yeah, up in the cupboard just above the stove.” Then the girls walk into the kitchen. The main character, surprised to see a stranger, (her new friend’s dad) cooking in the kitchen. Then out-of-the-blue he asks, “Can you read the directions on how to make the cereal?” Intimidated, the main character is taken back by his request; with wheels turning in her head, she wonders how to tell him, how to cook the cereal from the picture she sees of a pan with steam coming up. Unsure of what to say, he then pressures her to answer the question by asking the second time, “Can you read this?” she answers, “No.”)
    Nick, does this help paint a better picture? I’m open to suggestions. Nick thanks again for the opportunity to learn. I appreciate your blog.

  23. Sally Apokedak November 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks, Nick. Before I posted that I Googled that weightless feeling you get in your stomach to see if I could find a term to define it. Maybe I just need to stick with weightless feeling in the stomach. 🙂 I was more worried about the bearded lizard belly than the character’s belly floating and sinking. So your comments are very helpful to me. Thanks!

    Are we voting on favorites? If so, I’d have to go with Becky Miller’s, I think. That one tells me something about the character and the conflict, right off the bat.

  24. Nick November 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Tami, that does explain it. I can see that scene.

    Sally, the lizard is fine. I think it’s the stomach that needs work.

  25. Jacqueline Ley November 23, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Thanks Nick. This is the opening para of my novel:

    I noticed her as I pulled into the supermarket car-park, the kind of woman it was impossible not to notice. She must have sensed my stare, in that uncanny way people do. For no apparent reason, she swung round to gaze straight at me. A flash of startled recognition froze her features. She even took a couple of involuntary steps towards the car. Then a small boy cannoned into her knees, distracting her. I watched her field his mother’s apologies.

  26. Nick November 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Jacqueline, I like this. I think “car-park” isn’t the best word there. Even parking lot would be better. I’m not sure about the woman’s reaction. Is her step “toward the car” toward the narrator’s car or is she alarmed and stepping back toward her car? I suspect it’s the former, but it’s unclear. I love the use of the word “cannoned.” At first, though, as I was reading the sentence, I assumed the small boy belonged to her. It took the next sentence to clarify it. But I would read on to see what happens next.

  27. Peggy Rychwa November 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Better late than never?

    December 8, 1966
    “Hey! Hey! L.B.J.! How many kids did you kill today!”
    A string of sixth graders marched across an elementary school playground protesting the war in Vietnam as though L.B.J. gave a hoot. Twelve-year-old Audrey Wilkes had been invited to participate, but declined saying she gave even less of a hoot than L.B.J. did. This was the first impression she’d given to her peers in her new school, and it left her exactly where she wanted to be.

  28. Nick November 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Peggy, I like it. For a younger audience or no?

  29. Janalyn Voigt November 28, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    I’m chiming in late too. Here’s the first paragraph from my current historical romance WIP.

    Bry bucked against the arms that held her, but despite his youth Jeffrey restrained her with a man’s strength. As his moist lips slid across her cheek, she shuddered and eyed the carved rosewood door, tauntingly ajar only steps away.

  30. Peggy Rychwa November 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Hi Nick,

    It’s a coming of age novel geered toward adults.

    The first part of the story will include some of my husband’s rough experiences as a combat engineer in Vietnam. His current struggle with PTSD will be incorporated into the second part. So it’ll have some pretty heavy stuff.

    But since the opening makes you question if it’s geered toward younger audiences, I’d better write a prologue.


  31. Nick November 28, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Janalyn, I like the paragraph, but I’m not sure about the opening sounds of Bry bucked…

    It sounds awkward to me.

    Can you come up with a synonym for bucked. Can’t used strained because of “restrained” later in the sentence.

  32. Janalyn Voigt November 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I could use “shoved,” “pushed” or “twisted.” Of the three, I like “shoved” best.

    I removed my original word, “strained” for the reason you mention. Alternatively, I could replace “restrained” with “held” so I could use “strained,” but I don’t think “held” works. It doesn’t have the same strength as “restrained” and carries connotations of tenderness rather than control.

    I usually don’t have trouble with opening paragraphs, but this one has given me fits. Thanks for the input.

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