Friday, May 18, 2007

First Lines Contest... What Not To Do

I find I can’t choose examples of what not to do from the sweet, sincere people who entered the contest. There were a couple that kind of asked for it, though. So... some tips:

1. If your first two lines are so rhythmic that they could be the start of a limerick, they’re almost certainly too rhythmic.

2. You probably don’t want to start your manuscript with a run-on sentence.

3. Have your manuscript read by someone who knows a lot of slang, just in case you’ve given a tall pointy structure a vaguely Asian-sounding name which to other people is a term for male genitalia.

Thanks to all for playing!

8 comments:

Terry P. said...

Dear E.A.,

Thanks for doing this--such a simple yet effective way of showing what makes an intriguing first line. I'd love to hear your thoughts about following up with your hook. And perhaps now, you could do a "last lines" contest (because don't you feel it's also critical to leave your reader feeling satisfied with an amazing final sentence?).

elizabeth fama said...

I can't figure out what the vaguely Asian-sounding name is!

Anonymous said...

On behalf of at least some of the sweet, sincere contestants...any feedback (without naming names!) would be most welcome. I'd rather know what I need to work on and what I should simply...burn!

Editorial Anonymous said...

It's just... I read on a message board about a woman who entered a bit of her work in a contest from Evil Editor, and she described one of her characters as an MILF without knowing what it meant, and was later mortified at the hilarity that ensued.
I don't want to do that to people...
But I have an idea for the next contest that might deal with this.

Linda D. said...

Thank you for doing this. It would be wonderful to see some examples of what doesn't work and why. We're tough. We can take it.

srandall said...

Elizabeth - I'm guessing that the Asian-sounding name is Wang. that's definitely a slang term for male genitalia here in Sacramento.

Anonymous said...

Ooops! I think I'm guilty of number 1. But I was actually, sincerely, funning you. :-)

There is no story past those lines.
At least none that has come to me yet...

Can I enter it again for the worst contest?

jet said...

Oh dear. Many years ago there used to be a proprietary word processing system called Wang. Those of us who used it from time to time would usually say we were off 'wanging'. It sounded funny at the time but I guess now it would just sound coarse!