Your first Pargraph!

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by sierramcconnell » January 28th, 2011, 6:33 pm

Aimée wrote:After posting my paragraph into the contest, I realized that I am in no way eligible for these prizes. I don't have a query written, and my manuscript is not even close to being ready to be viewed by anyone, let alone an agent! But that's okay; my paragraph still needs some work. :) Here it is. It's literary fiction. The protagonist/narrator is 19, so I've been debating young adult, but there is a lot of sex and drugs, so probably not.
You know, I didn't worry about this. I have a partially mangled, tangled query that I know isn't very sufficient and that I haven't sent to anyone yet because I'm a terrified person.

But I figured, I'm not going for Runner's Up.

If I do manage to get that, I'll be grateful for the critique on the letter I've worked and re-worked over and over again until I could tear my hair out.

But I entered at the chance to go for the gold or fail.

Here's to everyone and here's to the weekend~!

Oh, and here's my paragraph. It is what it is.

---

The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
Josin
Posts: 98
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:07 pm
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Josin » January 28th, 2011, 6:48 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.

Don't wait to give the character's name; use it up front. And watch for things like "steel sword". Steel is the default metal in people's minds for a sword, so it's redundant. You're also filtering with "he could see". If he's your POV character, then we know it's something he's seeing.

You've got to dig your story out from under all the things choking it back.

If it were me, I'd turn the paragraph on its head, starting with the spitting, and ending with the waiting, with the details about Thomas and the sword in the middle, so it's bookended with Carmine.

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by sierramcconnell » January 28th, 2011, 7:01 pm

Josin wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.

Don't wait to give the character's name; use it up front. And watch for things like "steel sword". Steel is the default metal in people's minds for a sword, so it's redundant. You're also filtering with "he could see". If he's your POV character, then we know it's something he's seeing.

You've got to dig your story out from under all the things choking it back.

If it were me, I'd turn the paragraph on its head, starting with the spitting, and ending with the waiting, with the details about Thomas and the sword in the middle, so it's bookended with Carmine.
I can sort of understand that, but I've read so many books that start with...

Bob did...

Tom said...

Mary overheard...

That it's highly redundant. I didn't want to go that route. If you're redundant, chances are that people will immediately block you out and forget you, forget what you said, and have to re-read what you wrote.

I can understand the steel sword bit. I'm an overly detailed person. I like to be too thick at times. Especially because with swords they can be steel, silver, gold, iron, brass, or any number of fantasy element. It could be jeweled or rusted, highly ornate or carved. It could be long or short or flat or claymore...

I tried to get really detailed and I was told to cut a lot of it so I just left that.

I think one of my problems was it was overly betaed, and I took everything they said and changed it as if they were wiser than me. I should have left a lot of it in and not changed some things.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
jrosemary
Posts: 9
Joined: January 27th, 2011, 11:16 am
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by jrosemary » January 29th, 2011, 10:53 am

Dankrubis wrote:
jrosemary wrote: The only thing worse than visiting a graveyard is paying your respects to the man you put there. Not that I had murdered Cam--I'm not that far gone--but it was my fault his bones were rotting beneath that dull, gray slab.
Good stuff- I love the aside for some reason. The way it starts is almost misleading, then it gets pulled back in with -I'm not that far gone-. I also like dull, gray slab. Tone is pitch-perfect.

Meh stuff- The first line, but not really. I like the juxtaposition of visiting vs visiting someone who's dead because of you, but the qualifier of 'the only thing worse' doesn't set well with me (obviously there's always something worse). But on the other hand, it's a figure of speech and totally fine.


Thanks, Dankrubis! I'll revisit that figure of speech on the next draft and see how it works then.

Now for more comments:
Ghostwriter wrote:In a matter of seconds, I witnessed the deaths of my parents and oldest brother. It was then that I realized that my lonely childhood had come to a reverberating halt. This moment in time would forever be seared into my psyche, destined to become part of the psychological baggage that I would carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my life. My innocence was gone and there wasn’t time to mourn.
This is a dramatic start that makes me curious about what happened--but I wonder if it'd be even more powerful if you began by showing us the accident (or murders or whatever caused the deaths.) Have your narrator describe the deaths 'in the moment,' I mean. Meanwhile, I'd cut out a few words:

In a matter of seconds, I witnessed the deaths of my parents and oldest brother. It was then that I realized that [M]y lonely childhood had come to a reverberating halt. This moment in time would forever be seared into my psyche, destined to become part of the [my] psychological baggage that I would carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my life. My innocence was gone and there wasn’t time to mourn.
sierramcconnell wrote:The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.
Ooooh--good stuff. I agree with Josin's critique, though. I'd make it clear from the start that Carmine is the POV character, and I'd also begin with the spitting and end with the waiting. I don't agree that your paragraph will become redundant--I wouldn't block it out!

Best of luck!

Ghostwriter
Posts: 3
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 8:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Ghostwriter » January 29th, 2011, 11:11 am

Thank you so much! I am finishing up the last few chapters of the novel and will start soon on the dreaded "rewrite".

Your critique is invaluable to me and I do appreciate it.

Best,
Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter
Posts: 3
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 8:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Ghostwriter » January 29th, 2011, 11:14 am

Thank you Dankrubis,
I appreciate your critique and I'm sure you will be seeing more excerpts from me soon as I start the rewrite ofmy novel in the coming days.

Thank you again!
Ghostwriter

Kay
Posts: 1
Joined: January 26th, 2011, 2:42 pm
Location: NJ
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Kay » January 29th, 2011, 8:53 pm

Hey

I am new here. So maybe there won't be any great/helpful suggestions. But for whats it worth, chippin in my two bits.

charlotte49ers: I really liked your paragraph. The changes suggested on the board are great. But to me, the para was intriguing and yet casual at the same time. It left in scope to fill in the blanks yourself and that is a huge plus. Considering people kinda know what flow/content to expect from a book they pick up, this serves as an advantage throughout the novel.

jrosemary: Brief and strong. The impact is strong but again the changes regarding word placement or emphasis posted on the board would make the para even better. It is a hook quite literally. But then there is no description or contextual placement that a reader comes up with and in that sense your following paras become quite important and must carry a good pace/connection.

josin: Your para was amazing. I could see, feel and be there with the words. Quite moving. Though the last line made me think about restless feet in the night (crowded places in the night?) but it went well with the tone of the para. Probably I was just thinking too much - I do that a lot and realize that my imagination has run ahead sometimes, so you can check with someone else too.

Aimée:I am definitely gonna remember your para every time I hear someone mention rednecks. Hilarious. The line used by Dankrubis "Put down dem books an git yer daddy a beer, boy." is just perfect. Best of luck on the book; I am sure it is gonna be an interesting read. BTW, my parents have lawn decorations :-)

sierramcconnell: I would have also preferred to have the name of the character coming up a little earlier.

Here's my first para from Orion: The Reunion. Note - There are a couple of changes that are not there in my contest entry.

"That was the sheer genius the plan – Everything would be right in front of a person but only that he chose to see would be visible to him and become his physical and tangible reality. It was easy to make the mistake of believing that humans alone were real. After all, there were no visible signs of other life on Earth. Except for that man who crossed the street in the blink of an eye or the sudden phantom touch which left goose bumps all over. Or the dreams that seemed so real that one could never truly be convinced that it was just a dream. The strange pull every human felt towards the stars and everything unknown, the ease with which they accepted that there was something more powerful out there - It was all because there was something out there that resonated with every cell within."

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by sierramcconnell » January 29th, 2011, 11:00 pm

Kay wrote:Here's my first para from Orion: The Reunion. Note - There are a couple of changes that are not there in my contest entry.

"That was the sheer genius the plan – Everything would be right in front of a person but only that he chose to see would be visible to him and become his physical and tangible reality. It was easy to make the mistake of believing that humans alone were real. After all, there were no visible signs of other life on Earth. Except for that man who crossed the street in the blink of an eye or the sudden phantom touch which left goose bumps all over. Or the dreams that seemed so real that one could never truly be convinced that it was just a dream. The strange pull every human felt towards the stars and everything unknown, the ease with which they accepted that there was something more powerful out there - It was all because there was something out there that resonated with every cell within."
I tend to be a little critical so I apologize.

I have no idea who your main character is. I actually have no idea what's going on at all because it's all too confusing. You say that nothing exists and yet it does exist. I think you're trying to put too much 'umph' and wow into the first paragraph and it's failing. Leave that for your query.

If I picked it up in the store I would be left with a O-o on my face and quickly put it back. I'm sure the book is just fine but this would not be a good starting paragraph. You want something that hooks and leaves someone wanting more. Something that makes them want to learn what's going on. This is just too confusing.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by sierramcconnell » January 29th, 2011, 11:06 pm

jrosemary wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.
Ooooh--good stuff. I agree with Josin's critique, though. I'd make it clear from the start that Carmine is the POV character, and I'd also begin with the spitting and end with the waiting. I don't agree that your paragraph will become redundant--I wouldn't block it out!

Best of luck!
I'll have to take that into consideration on the next round of edits then. I do find it interesting how the beta editing varies from forum to forum. XD

Oh, and thanks to all of you~! :3
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
jrosemary
Posts: 9
Joined: January 27th, 2011, 11:16 am
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by jrosemary » January 31st, 2011, 7:50 pm

Kay wrote:Hey

I am new here. So maybe there won't be any great/helpful suggestions. But for whats it worth, chippin in my two bits.

jrosemary: Brief and strong. The impact is strong but again the changes regarding word placement or emphasis posted on the board would make the para even better. It is a hook quite literally. But then there is no description or contextual placement that a reader comes up with and in that sense your following paras become quite important and must carry a good pace/connection.

Here's my first para from Orion: The Reunion. Note - There are a couple of changes that are not there in my contest entry.

"That was the sheer genius the plan – Everything would be right in front of a person but only that he chose to see would be visible to him and become his physical and tangible reality. It was easy to make the mistake of believing that humans alone were real. After all, there were no visible signs of other life on Earth. Except for that man who crossed the street in the blink of an eye or the sudden phantom touch which left goose bumps all over. Or the dreams that seemed so real that one could never truly be convinced that it was just a dream. The strange pull every human felt towards the stars and everything unknown, the ease with which they accepted that there was something more powerful out there - It was all because there was something out there that resonated with every cell within."
Thanks for your critique, Kay! I agree that a lot will depend on subsequent paragraphs. And don't worry; I'm also new here, and I just dove in too. :)

I like the paranormal feel of your paragraph, and the promise that this will be about something 'out there' that resonates 'within.' I have two concerns though. Firstly, I find it harder to dive into a story with a seemingly remote, omniscient narrator. I like being inside the head of a particular character! (But that's just my preference.)

My second concern is the way you refer to humans as the only reality, since there were "no visible signs of other life on Earth." I immediately thought, "Wait--what about animal and plant life? There are plenty of visible signs of them." That's probably not the type of life you're referring to, but since that thought pulled me out of the paragraph, I thought I'd mention it.

Sundance
Posts: 3
Joined: January 29th, 2011, 5:53 am
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Sundance » January 31st, 2011, 7:56 pm

See, my problem is that I'm silly and a little psychotic.
Take that first paragraph contest, for instance. Of course, I have nothing ready to submit, so I'll dig up some old work and edit and edit and edit until there's only half an hour left to the deadline. That's the psychotic part. The silly part is when I discover I counted the timezones wrong and the contest closed half an hour ago.

Then the psychotic part takes over again as I stridently don't care and move on. The moving on thing lasts all of three days.

So, yes, I'm feeling pretty silly creating a forum account just so I can post that darn paragraph and keep it from going to waste. What can I say? Silly is my special power.
The tidal winds that swept dust clouds across the brief purple afternoon abated at dusk, revealing the bloated outline of the gas giant etched into the haze. Under the massive golden crescent, a man stood alone at the edge of the crater's mile-high rim, looking up into the darkening sky and tightening his thick microfiber cloak against the tug of the wind. Behind him, the vertical helices of two wind turbines creaked and whirred blearily in the weakening twilight sirocco; the third one, stripped to the mast, stood impotent as a dead tree in the failing light, its missing parts scattered at its base.

User avatar
Falls Apart
Posts: 182
Joined: January 16th, 2011, 4:53 pm
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Falls Apart » January 31st, 2011, 9:05 pm

I think that's a great first paragraph. Shame you couldn't submit it. Maybe next year, though. :)

User avatar
J. T. SHEA
Moderator
Posts: 491
Joined: May 20th, 2010, 1:55 pm
Location: IRELAND
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by J. T. SHEA » January 31st, 2011, 9:40 pm

Great thread, Shadow! Applying your suggested test, I would read on or request more of all the paragraphs so far. Which would make me a rather busy agent...

Many commenters ask a lot of questions, which is reasonable, since the purpose of any first paragraph is to raise more questions than answers. How and when the writer answers those questions is the next test.

Your first paragraph? You don't waste time! A fight, two important characters, a life ot death dilemma, a family falling out. What's not to like?

Falls Apart, I like how you challenge the reader not to be drawn in. My protagonist also addresses the reader directly, which I use to rationalize the detailed nature of some of his later descriptions.

Charlotte49ers, the questions Pwtucker asks will need to be answered eventually, but I see no need to answer them in the first paragraph. The cuts Jrosemary suggests sound useful.

Jrosemary, as Dankrubis said, there are many things worse than either visiting a graveyard or paying your respects to a man you put there! But I get your point. And I like short paragraphs.

Sbs_mjc1, I take it the definite article 'the' should be inserted before the word 'Gordons', as Jrosemary suggested? Otherwise excellent. If anyone asks what a 'feilidh-mhor' is, rewrite it in the old Gaelic script and really confuse them!

Josin, poetic and evocative in the best sense of those words! And no need to introduce the protagonist or any character yet, unless the dead count.

Dankrubis, yikes! You don't believe in the gradual buildup, do you? But I'm not complaining. Unlike some, I quite like waking up beginnings, and a shitty bathtub makes a change from a bed. I would probably divide it into several paragraphs, but that would not stop me reading on.

Aimee, you might specify your narrator's friend's mother is missing three FRONT teeth. And doesn't believe in dentures!

Ghostwriter, I like Jrosemary's suggested cuts, but your opening is strong in any case.

Sierra, good start, but are the following typos are am I misunderstanding your intent?

The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed (AGAINST?) to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone (BY THE?) for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.

Kay, should '...only that he chose to see...' read '...only WHAT he chose to see...'? Like Jrosemary, I wonder if by 'life on Earth' you mean ALL life or just intelligent life? Or is the question deliberate and answered later on? And I would read on.

Sundance, if your behavior is psychotic, then so is much of the general population! Stop apologizing! You sound like Dobby in the Harry Potter books. Your paragraph is awesome. Literally.

So, without further ado, the first paragraph of my currently untitled YA Steampunk series:-

CHAPTER 1
JUST IMAGINE…
'WELCOME TO MY WORLD.'

My name is Jimmy Fort. I am sixteen. Mr. Abel Sunderland, proprietor of the Daily Globe, and Mr. Marshall Mahon, its editor, have asked me to write an ongoing account of the Globe Expedition to the Equatorial Lost City, and my part in it. When (and if) we reach the Lost City, a copy of this account will be among the many items to be sealed in a time capsule and buried there to commemorate our (hoped-for) success. Therefore I am instructed to record and explain some things which may seem obvious to a present-day reader. Marshall Mahon will edit a shorter version to appear in installments in the Junior Section of the Globe.

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by sierramcconnell » February 1st, 2011, 12:57 am

J. T. SHEA wrote:Sierra, good start, but are the following typos are am I misunderstanding your intent?

The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed (AGAINST?) to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone (BY THE?) for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.
If you only knew the amount of going back and forth on just how to right this that the betas and I went through...those are not typos. Everyone sees it differently. Pressed against, redundant. If you're pressing an object, you're obviously against it. by the was chosen by a few betas as too wordy. They hated it, so it was thrown out and replaced by for. The MS sits at about 115,000 and we were trying to wittle it down from 120,000 because not many agents are going to care what I write if the word count is too high.

J. T. SHEA wrote:So, without further ado, the first paragraph of my currently untitled YA Steampunk series:-

CHAPTER 1
JUST IMAGINE…
'WELCOME TO MY WORLD.'
Things like this often get skipped over. People are reading -we hope- the meat of your book and not often the chapter titles no matter how cleaver they can be.

My name is Jimmy Fort. I am sixteen.

And my character introduces himself this way. Several others have done this. I will stand by it that if you're first paragraphing, try to be profound. New. Interesting. This is telling me, not showing me. Very boring.

Mr. Abel Sunderland, proprietor of the Daily Globe, and Mr. Marshall Mahon, its editor,

We have comma hell here. Can't we learn to use interesting dashes or break things in to learn who these people are yet? I'm going to read that and go, "Why do I care? Maybe Abel has a penchant for fish and Marshy has six fingers. Make me remember something and want to link with the characters. Give me more information than this dissertation you're reading me.

have asked me to write an ongoing account of the Globe Expedition to the Equatorial Lost City, and my part in it.

Your part seems almost as an afterthought. Obviously if you're writing it, you'll be in there somewhere...right?

When (and if) we reach the Lost City, a copy of this account will be among the many items to be sealed in a time capsule

How? One of those submersible glass globes that goes down about four feet that no one can get to? Under ground, only to be dug up later? How?
Also, I abhor () in a book. Try , - and anything else you possibly can, including rewording before bringing out the word vagina.

and buried there to commemorate our (hoped-for) success. Therefore I am instructed to record and explain some things which may seem obvious to a present-day reader.

No, this is not Back to the Victorian. Please, just don't.

Marshall Mahon will edit a shorter version to appear in installments in the Junior Section of the Globe.
Over all I like the idea, but it needs some work. I do tend to snip and be critical, but once polished I might like to read it.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: Your first Pargraph!

Post by Holly » February 1st, 2011, 1:19 am

J.T. Shea, I love it. The voice sounds authentic and reminds me of classic books and movies where the characters embark on a fantastic journey. Good luck!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests