Mark Terry

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Writer's Short Course On Opening Paragraphs

December 9, 2008
Agent Nathan Bransford  opened up his blog for a mini-contest, in which people posted the first paragraph of their work in progress. As of this morning, there were over 500 entries.

My friends, this is a short seminar on what to do and not do in your writing. Rush over there and read some of these things.

Better yet, read some of them out loud. That's what I did to the amusement of my 15-year-old son, who would say, "That's boring," or "What?" or start laughing insanely, not because they were funny (at least intentionally), but because they were so, uh, well...

My heart-felt condolences for Nathan and any agent who spends their day reading stuff like this. It's not necessarily that they're bad, at least not on a word for word sense. (Some are). But they definitely have problems--in the first paragraph!

Here are four things I noticed.

1. Run-on sentences. If your first sentence is going to run 45 words or 100, you'd better be a genius. Otherwise, using an f***ing period.

2. Mangled similes and/or metaphors. Really, in the first sentence or paragraph? Her heart melted like a snowman in the hot sun on a July day in Nebraska? (I'm kidding, sort of).

3. Get to the point. Please.

4. This is harder, but, uh... don't be boring. I came to appreciate the agent's job in a different way. I routinely say that an agent or editor doesn't have to read your entire manuscript to know whether it's salable or not. They can read a page or two. I often generously say 20 or 50 pages just to make aspiring writers feel better, but I'm lying. You don't need to read that long. And after spending some time on Nathan's blog, it's easy for me to say, "If you're boring in the first two sentences, I'm not going to read to 20 pages. Sorry, but, uh, life is short."

So, spend some time over there educating yourself.

Mark Terry


Blogger Kath Calarco said...

Mark, I'm going to check it out. Maybe it'll make my work look like a best seller. lol

It's amazing, though, the amount of pubbed books that have tortuous first lines/paragraphs. That's why before purchase, I'll read a few lines first. If it doesn't drag me in with some wit or unusual hook, it goes back on the shelf. But, I've also been suckered in with a great hook, opening paragraph, only to be put off as the story unfolds. Then I get pissed that I wasted money.

My reading time is precious, one that I won't waste on crap.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Davin C. Goodwin said...


What's the book you're reading? I am a huge fan of the Caribbean, and might want to read it.

BTW: I liked your paragraph on Nathan's blog.....

7:48 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I just finished "St. Barts Breakdown" by Don Bruns. Obviously, most of it takes place on St. Barts. Go figure.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Kath Calarco said...

So I read nearly half, and am so happy to not be an agent or editor for my eyes couldn't take so much assault. (Although there were some good ones - short; sweet; to the point - like Mark's)

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Betsy Dornbusch said...

I'm a longtime lurker over here, though you know me as Sex Scenes at Starbucks.

Thought I'd mention that we're doing something similar for short fiction over at

First page, 200 word limit, short fiction, send it to See the blog for past entries and rules.

We've been in the ezine business for three years, are a paying market, and really like to help writers...

2:42 PM  
Blogger fly said...

A smokingwow gold ban in onewow gold Colorado city led towow power leveling a dramatic drop in heartworld of warcraft gold attack hospitalizations within threewow gold years, a sign ofbuy wow gold government researchers said Wednesday.

5:40 PM  
Blogger fly said...

The study,cheap wow gold the longest-runningworld of warcraft gold of its kind, showed thebuy wow gold rate of hospitalizedwow power leveling cases dropped 41dofus kamas percent in thekamas dofus three years afterdofus kamas the ban ofkamas dofus workplace smokingFinal Fantasy XI gil in Pueblo, Coloffxi gil., took ffxi gil There was nolotro gold such drop in twolotr gold neighboring flyff penyaareas, andbuy flyff gold researchers flyff moneybelieve it’s a Maple Story Mesosclear sign theMapleStory mesos ban was responsible.Maple Story mesoThe study suggestseq2 plat that secondhandEverQuest 2 gold smoke may beEverQuest 2 plat a terrible andeq2 plat under-recognizedRunescape gold cause of heartRunescape money attack deathsRunescape Money in this country,Runescape Power leveling said one ofRunescape Gold its authors,Final Fantasy XI gil Terry Pechacekffxi gil of the U.S. Centersbuy ffxi gil for Disease Control and Prevention.

5:40 PM  
Blogger fly said...

At least eightlv ring earlier studiesReplica Watches have linked Replica Handbagssmoking bans toReplica Handbag decreased heart attacksCoach Handbags, but none ranGucci Handbags as long as Rolex Watchesthree years. Replica Rolex WatchesThe new studyDesigner clothing looked at heartDesigner replica handbags attack hospitalizationsWholesale jewelry for three years followingReplica rolex watches the July 1, replica handbags2003 enactmentreplica watches of Pueblo’s ban,data processing service and found declinesdata processing as great or greaterdata process than those in data processing serviceearlier processing“This study isdata process very dramatic,” data processing servicesaid Dr. Michael Thun,data processing a researcher withdata process the American Cancer Society.

5:40 PM  
Blogger jislsnhd said...

I am so happy to get some Atlantica online Gold and the Atlantica Gold is given by my close friend who tells me that the cheap Atlantica online Gold is the basis to enter into the game. Therefore, I should buy Atlantica online Gold with the spare money and I gain some Atlantica online money from other players.

8:13 PM  
Blogger 蹦蹦 said...

buy wow gold
wow gold
buy wow gold
eve isk
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
wow power leveling
warhammer gold
warhammer power leveling
bestchina traveland
UGG Cardy
UGG Classic Short
Tiffany Necklaces

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WoW shares many wow gold of its features with previously launched games. Essentially, you battle with Cheapest wow gold monsters and traverse the countryside, by yourself or as a buy cheap wow gold team, find challenging tasks, and go on to higher Cheap Wow Gold levels as you gain skill and experience. In the course of your journey, you will be gaining new powers that are increased as your skill rating goes up. All the same, in terms of its features and quality, that is a ture stroy for this.WoW is far ahead of all other games of the genre the wow power leveling game undoubtedly is in a league of its own and cheapest wow gold playing it is another experience altogether.
Even though WoW is a wow gold cheap rather complicated game, the controls and interface are done in buy warhammer gold such a way that you don't feel the complexity. A good feature of the game is that it buy wow items does not put off people with lengthy manuals. The instructions cannot be simpler and the pop up tips can help you start playing the game World Of Warcraft Gold immediately. If on the other hand, you need a detailed manual, the instructions are there for you to access. Buy wow gold in this site,good for you ,WoW Gold, BUY WOW GOLD.

4:41 AM  
Blogger kiko said...

This is awow gold rare subject that Iwow gold speak on because I buy wow goldgenerally trybuy wow gold to stay away from itcheap wow gold. I'm don't follow thecheap wow gold campaigns orworld of warcrft gold feedback of theworld of warcrft gold candidates. I justwow power leveling stick to my "guns". That old power levelingwestern saying. It's that time again and yes, we finally get the chance to get rid that "thing" that weworld of warcraft power leveling have as a president and put someone new in house.

7:26 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I hope i can get FFXI Gil in low price,
Yesterday i bought FFXI gold for my friend.
i want him like it. i will give Final Fantasy XI gold to him
as birthday present. i like the cheap Final Fantasy XI Gold very much.
I usually buy FFXI Gil and keep it in my store.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my people mind, the knight noah is very expensive, but now I want to say that in here you can buy the cheap knight noah, it is really, from now on, you can come here to buy knight noah, it only spend a little money then can buy much knight gold.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is called the Entropiauniverse ped world. In the Entropia world, Entropia Universe Gold is important. Adventures and social interaction with other participants with Entropia Universe Money. Buy Entropia Universe Gold is a real thing to you. It is also possible to offer users the opportunity of buying and selling cheap Entropiauniverse ped.
It is also can not live without eve isk. Here, for the violence or robbery had been friends apologize in the eve online isk. I request members are on the local increase or decrease in the number of judgments quickly in buy isk. The game has a good excellence is that the cheap eve isk. The other side rather than back into the space station is POS, and buy eve online isk.

5:30 PM  
Blogger feilin said...

I think 2moons dil changes my life. Because of 2moons gold, I meet a lot of friends. Besides, my friends usually give me some 2moon dil. I usually buy 2moons dil through Internet and advice from my friends, so I gain a lot of cheap 2moons gold and harvest in life.
9Dragons is a very good game. Through buying 9Dragons gold, I find fun in it. I am so glad that I can earn a lot of 9 Dragons gold. 9Dragons cater to the taste of young people. With cheap 9Dragons gold, you can get everything you want in this game. So I like to buy 9 Dragons gold. For me 9Dragons money is not just a simple thing.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous jackier said...

Children and teenagers who face the greatest risk of nutritional deficiencies tend to use vitamin and mineral supplements the least, researchers reported Monday.Among 10,828 US children ages 2 to 17 years old who participated in the 1999 to 2004 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, roughly 34 percent had used vitamin and mineral supplements in the past month."We hypothesized," Dr. Ulfat Shaikh told Reuters Health, "that children who had poor diets (low vegetable intake, low milk intake, high fat intake, low fiber intake), world of warcraft goldwow power levelcheap wow goldwow power levelingwow powerlevelingbuy wow goldEverQuest 2 goldeq2 platfaced food insecurity, had less physical activity and poor access to health care, would use such supplements more.""What we found was for the most part the opposite of what we expected,"cheap ffxi gilffxi gilfinal fantasy gilMaple Story Mesosmaple story accountmaplestory MesosLOTRO Goldlord of the rings goldLOTR Golddofus kamaskamas dofus said Shaikh from University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento."Other than children who were underweight (we did expect these children to use more vitamin and mineral supplements and found this to be true from the data), runescape goldrunescape powerlevelingrunescape moneyArchLord goldarchlord powerlevelingbuy ArchLord goldflyff penyabuy flyff goldflyff moneyWarhammer goldbuy warhammer goldchildren who used vitamin and mineral supplements were for the most part healthier, had more nutritious diets, greater physical activity, lower sedentary activity, lower obesity, lower food insecurity and better health care access,"

4:26 PM  
Anonymous jackier said...

Yim's group looked for a link between placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) and postpartum depression. The researchers took blood samples from 100 pregnant women at various stages during their pregnancy and tested for levels of pCRH.They also assessed the women for signs of depression during pregnancy and about eight weeks, on average, after delivery.In all, 16 women developed postpartum depression. world of warcraft goldbuy wow goldcheap wow goldwow power levelingwow powerlevelingeverquest 2 goldeq2 platIn each case, the women had had high levels of pCRH at 25 weeks into their pregnancies, the study fantasy 11 cheap gilbuy ffxi gilffxi gilfinal fantasy xi gilmaple story mesosmaplestory mesosmaplestory mesoThe blood test, which was found to have a high degree of both specificity and sensitivity, could identify about 75 percent of women who would develop postpartum depression, Yim's team found. lotro goldlotr goldlord of the ring goldrunescape goldrunescape moneyrunescape itemsThe test misclassified about 25 percent of the women.When the blood test was combined with assessing symptoms of depression during pregnancy, Yim noted, it was even more predictive of postpartum depression.dofus kamaskamas dofuswarhammer goldbuy warhammer goldCheap warhammer goldflyff penyabuy flyff goldflyff moneyIf the findings can be replicated, then testing the level of this hormone might become standard care, Yim said."eve iskeve online iskarchlord goldbuy archlord goldPostpartum depression affects so many women that it would be great to have something that would help to identify being at risk early on, and perhaps develop strategies to prevent it," she said.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous world of warcraft gold said...

Weaknesses of World Of Warcraft Gold the client-server model used by World of Warcraft have been wow power levelingexploited in order to crash the cluster of servers that aoc goldmake up a realm. Exploits also include characters being able to instantly Cheapest Wow Goldchange location or teleport. The situationbecame worse cheap wow goldwhen trying to coordinate activities across a number of playersor guilds on the same realm.World of Warcraft Lead Producer, stated that new realms would be introduced to warhammer goldrelieve the burden on existing ones. Existing realms would be upgraded.

Although the game wow gold follows a similar model to others in the genreand was noted for having wow gold cheapmany familiar concepts from roleplaying games, the new approaches gold4powerto reduce pauses between game encounters was well liked. At various times, World of Warcraft players have experienced problems with connecting to and logging in to wow gold for sale the game. Sudden server crashes that would force realms offline also occurred.

12:53 AM  
Blogger kiko said...

It is true wow gold that my wow gold friend‘s case wow gold is not unique. In the nike shoes last few years quite a rolex number of men and buy wow gold women have chosen to buy wow gold do something less buy wow gold competitive at the cost jordan shoes of a comfortable, easy cartier life a highly-paid cheap wow gold job can obtain. They cheap wow gold are afraid that the cheap wow gold stresses and strains sport shoes of work will rob omega them of joy and world of warcraft gold happiness and do world of warcraft gold them harm both world of warcraft gold physically and mentally. In casual shoes fact, however, stress isn‘t rolex watches the bad thing it is cartier watches often supposed to be. Unless omega watches it gets out of control, a certain replica watches amount of stress is vital wholesale watches to provide cheap watches motivation and challenge.

12:34 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home