Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

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Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby wordranger » 23 Jul 2011, 20:37

This past week, I joined a very simple writing contest.
Nothing flashy… just a pitch and the first 250 words of my manuscript.

Now, no matter how this turns out, I did get something out of the experience…

#1: I read a few of the other entries, and was able to make some comments on them. It was enlightening to see what else is out there being queried. There is some really interesting stuff out there. And ****GACK**** some of these authors are REALLY talented. See # 2

#2: This contest called for the first 250 words of the manuscript. YIKES.
This is my challenge to you. Read the first 250 words of your manuscript. Not the first 300. Not even the first 260. THE FIRST 250. Now, you might say, “The first 250 words of any manuscript aren’t good. They’re just exposition.” Well, let me tell you. There are a few people in this contest who have KICK BUTT first 250 words.

It made me start thinking… How many agents/publishers might only read the first 250 words or so of a submission, and just move on if they are not INSTANTLY “wowed” by the work?

The more I thought about it, the more I decided “Probably a lot of them.” These people are REALLY BUSY.
I read an interview with an agent who said they receive 10,000 queries a year. Think that over.

I, for one, learned something from this contest. I am looking closely at my first 250 words again.
When they were standing out there all alone, I didn’t quite love them as much as I did when they were attached to the next paragraph.
Words are your friend.
Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

Jennifer Eaton, WordRanger
My Novelette LAST WINTER RED will be published by J. Taylor Publishing in December, 2012

Take a Step into My World and Learn From My Mistakes http://www.jennifermeaton.com/
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby CharleeVale » 23 Jul 2011, 20:54

What contest? I'd like to go read some of the entries!

CV
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby wordranger » 23 Jul 2011, 21:10

It was a simple, mostly fun contest Brenda Drake posted on her Blog Site.
Here is the link. You'd have to go to each person's individual blog to see what they were working on.
You can do that just by clicking on their name.

Now, I'm not saying every single one was outstanding, but a few of them definitely raised my eyebrows.

http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/2011/07/its-on-auntie-bs-book-club-blogfest.html
Words are your friend.
Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

Jennifer Eaton, WordRanger
My Novelette LAST WINTER RED will be published by J. Taylor Publishing in December, 2012

Take a Step into My World and Learn From My Mistakes http://www.jennifermeaton.com/
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby polymath » 24 Jul 2011, 07:47

Two hundred fifty words I understand is on the generous side. Screening readers who share their process vary widely on their drop-dead limits. The range of first reading sampling I've seen is from ten words to five hundred with one hundred thirty the mean. One hundred thirty is a first page in Standard Manuscript Format. Partial page sink, title, byline, and thirteen lines text, ten words per line, idealized words. Of course, quite a few submissions don't make it to the first word. They broadcast serious issues before the manuscript is even looked at.

I usually have a clue of the writing caliber within ten words, though I'll read as far as it takes to find something favorable to comment on. I want to read for entertainment, but if I'm put off I'll switch hats midsentence.

Things that change my approach from reading for entertainment to reading for commentary include;
Nondiscretionary mechanical style issues: grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting
Awkward diction
Clumsy syntax
Disrupting willing suspension of disbelief
Ordinary, everyday settings with little influence on plot
Spoiling the participation mystique
Illogical causation: cause ought best precede effect
Flat affect, flat attitude, emotionally indifferent scenario
Flat empathy quotient of tension
No particular curiosity engagement, suspense quotient of tension
Unsettled narrative point of view
Haphazard closing and opening narrative distance
Uncertain reader surrogate and/or attitude holder
Static dramatic action: standing, looking, waiting around, etc.
Lackluster antagonism
Thematic disunity

If I'm not put off, I'll read further, scrutinizing for big picture facets, continuity of concept, a clear creative vision, and a solid plot arc, for instance.
Spread the love of written word.
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Quill » 24 Jul 2011, 13:45

polymath, great list of disqualifiers, or at least disquieters.

I wonder how many published books you read that pass muster on all of the above!

And true about the first ten words. One can often get a real feel for the writing and level of crafting skill from only the first sentence or two. Amazing but true.
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby polymath » 24 Jul 2011, 15:38

Quill wrote:polymath, great list of disqualifiers, or at least disquieters.

I wonder how many published books you read that pass muster on all of the above!

And true about the first ten words. One can often get a real feel for the writing and level of crafting skill from only the first sentence or two. Amazing but true.

I graze the new and popular stacks at libraries and bookstores, glimpsing their first dozen or so words. Also, authonomy as well as other online venues. I look for one facet that recommends the fiction or nonfiction title to me, and that is artfully closing narrative distance from the beginning. Most have a redeeming quality or two that makes up for a host of other shortcomings. I pass if they don't speak intimately to me personally or there's a big buzz about a title, which I'll read to see what all the hoopla is about.

There's only so much reading time in a lifetime. So I tend to read mostly top of the market novels. Bestselling lists by their spotty track records I don't pay much attention to.

I'm working on a new topic, What Is Artful, in terms of narrative arts. Coming soon to a thread near you.
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Writecastlesinthesky » 25 Jul 2011, 05:31

The question is, should we hold our own contest and see how we measure up?
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Watcher55 » 25 Jul 2011, 06:33

Writecastlesinthesky wrote:The question is, should we hold our own contest and see how we measure up?


Only if the prize is a box of Post Toasties. >:}
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby CharleeVale » 25 Jul 2011, 08:17

I think that's a good idea!

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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Sanderling » 25 Jul 2011, 08:24

CharleeVale wrote:I think that's a good idea!

CV


The Post Toasties, or the contest? ;)
My blog / Twitter
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Watcher55 » 25 Jul 2011, 08:29

Sanderling wrote:
CharleeVale wrote:I think that's a good idea!

CV


The Post Toasties, or the contest? ;)


Both of course. :)
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby CharleeVale » 25 Jul 2011, 08:29

Well, since I honestly have no idea what Post Toasties are...I'm gonna go with the contest. :P

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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Watcher55 » 25 Jul 2011, 08:35

:shock:
Image
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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby CharleeVale » 25 Jul 2011, 08:40

....Are they different from normal cornflakes?

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Re: Just how good are YOUR first 250 words?

Postby Watcher55 » 25 Jul 2011, 09:43

Just the same, but It's funner to say - Post Toasties, Post Toasties, Post Toasties... "Try it Gus."
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