Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First 250 words of Ignite - contest!


Ok This is a contest and a Blogfest - the above link will take you there.  Heres the rules and what we do!
Thank You Brenda Drake and agent Natalie Fischer for your time and fun contest!

 On March 20 and 21, post the first 250 words of your finished manuscript (any genre) on your blog to get critiques from your followers and then hop around to the other participants' sites and give critiques. Polish those 250 words and email them to me at brenleedrake@gmail.com with CONTEST in the subject line by 12:00AM (EST) on March 22

My example is 253 words because I didn't want to cut it off in the middle of a sentence. So if your 250 words ends in the middle of one, please go to the end of the sentence.

All entries submitted before the cut off time will be considered. The first round will be judged by a chosen panel of your peers (agented and unagented). We'll pick the best 20 entries and post them on my blog by March 24. The 20 entries we pick will be judged by Natalie. The winners will be announced on or before Monday, March 28.

Bet you're wondering what prizes Natalie is offering, right? Well, here they are:

1st place - a critique of the first 20 pages
2nd place - a critique of the first 10 pages
3rd place - a query critique

Don't forget to SHOW ME THE VOICE!
Ok so here are my actual first 250 words or so.
Anyone is welcome to comment - anyone can say exactly what they think.(at least to me - play nice with the other people if you jump around)
I do not include the prologue - it is not the voice of the novel but a tiny glimpse into the mind of another character - thus a prologue.  Anyway - Red ink is LOVE so even though all you people are really nice - just for a moment, could you try to endevor to be less nice?  Like, alot less nice?  Border on mean if it is at all possible. 

Howlynn Martin
YA Paranormal

On my last day of normal, reality was my friend.  My wishes were insignificant, but they had to be earned.  I ran beside the sled, demanding destiny, before the bobsleigh of my life began to fall into speed, tilting and slipping precariously into unknown directions. Every single childish day of my life I wished for magic.  When magic answered, I had stopped believing.   I don’t wish for anything now.  I don’t dare.  
The loud speaker announces it is on, sounding like a flaming green log, in the most boring class ever invented for the torture of young minds. The math facts teacher winces in frustration, pausing at the board, chalk in hand.  The old wooden box, on the job and the wall for over fifty years, with it’s gold dusty speaker crackling says, “The Jr. High, JV and Varsity, Cheerleading tryout packets are now available at the office.”  It pops ominously before dozing off into silence.  The faint scent of smoke prompts comments about fire alarms, but the teacher quickly squelches such nonsense and the chalk scratches rhythmically once again to her mathematical monotone.
  Shivers of daydreams from my armpits to my toe-jammies argue with my self-esteem about the splendid plan I have in mind.   A telling rivulet of nervous sweat trickles secretly inside my shirt as my stomach lurches, and my throat plays unwilling gatekeeper. 
It may have not been only the announcement.  I feel eyes on me and I turn quickly in my third row seat to glare at the place that it issues, from behind me. 


Ok that is it - I put this up Way early because I am heading to Dallas for the 'Dreamin' In Dallas' Conference!  Also anyone who wants can pop over and enter too - Hurry - before Mr. linky-thing has a heart attack over there!

Show Me The Voice? - well I am up here in Missouri....  show me what you didn't like ...please comment below or whereever the darn thing pops up!  And not that it matters - but the main characters name Is----Natalie!   hehehe.


  1. LOve the line "I don't wish for anything now"- speaks volumes.

  2. You definitely have a voice! I think the first line is great and caught my attention. There are two things that concern me. One, the voice seems a bit sophisticated for most YA work and material, comparatively. Second, you change from present and past tense, which makes parts of it confusing. I think that tense is certainly something you need to stick with--present or past-- but as far as the tone and vocabulary, that's whatever feels right to YOU! : ) Have a great trip and good luck- Bekah

  3. First of all - LOVED your extra tips for great story telling. I'm going to see if i can fit a red-headed vegan teen with a J.R. Ewing complex into one of my stories.... :)

    I like your excerpt. I'll agree about the tense changing, however. The last lines in the 1st para would read better as "I didn't wish..." and "I didn't care." I would suggest continuing in past tense in the following paragraphs. "The loud speaker..." sentence trips me up a little...I think it needs a subject, slip in a "while I sit in the most boring class...".

    You've got some lovely images working for you here - but, some of them read a little clunky. I think they would be just as effective if you simplified a bit. For example, "The old wooden box..." sentence would be clearer as something like, "The fifty-year-old wooden box on the wall, with its dusty speaker crackling..."

    I really like the intrigue of your opening. Hopefully this helps some - best of luck in the contest, and ENJOY your conference! :)

  4. I like your first sentence. It caught my attention and made me want to read more to find out what happened.

    There's a lot of description in this passage, so much that I'd almost consider this purple prose. I don't know much about your MC or her voice. Instead, I get a lot of detail about a wooden box on the wall. I'd rather know more about the MC. Unless the wooden box is critically important to the plot later in the story, you can lose some of the details.

    Nothing happens in this passage. Especially in the first 250 words, readers need to be hooked, and I think the lack of action here will make that hard. This has lots of metaphors and description, so much that it was hard for me to get into this. I had to focus more on reading than enjoying the story. Donea Lee said it well when she called some of your sentences "clunky." Tightening them and pulling out some superfluous description will make this a lot stronger. Plus, reducing descriptions will allow you to get more of your MC's voice onto the first page. I definitely think you need to let the readers get to know her better.

    Also, having so much description makes this feel more adult than YA. Part of that could be that I haven't gotten a good look at the MC yet, but this passage doesn't feel YA to me.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love the first line! And some great details popped out. However, I got confused pretty quick.

    "My wishes were insignificant, but they had to be earned." - this didnt confuse me, but it really tell me anything either. What are his wishes?

    "I ran beside the sled, demanding destiny, before the bobsleigh of my life began to fall into speed, tilting and slipping precariously into unknown directions." I'm guessing this is figurative rather than him literally running beside a sled. But I wasn't sure. It's beautiful writing but maybe doesn't fit right here in the beginning before we know what this character is and what he wants.

    "Every single childish day of my life I wished for magic." Okay, now I know what he wants!

    "When magic answered, I had stopped believing. I don’t wish for anything now. I don’t dare." Okay, now I'm confused again. Why had he stopped believing? Why doesn't he wish for anything now?

    Again, it's beautiful writing, you put the words together well, but you are raising too many questions in the readers mind (or at least mine) without first giving us a solid setting, place in time, etc.

  6. I agree with most of the comments above. Very good first sentence, but then it lost me. I thought the MC was female, but others thought it was male. oops. Some of your writing is beautiful, but it doesn't fit with the story, for me. "my throat plays unwilling gatekeeper" was very nice. The imagery is interesting, but doesn't enhance the story. After the first paragraph, you actually get to some minimal action, but I can't tell if it is meaningful to the rest of the story. If it was clearer (to me) it would give more grounding of where it was going. Unless the speaker announcement is pivotal, you spend too much time on it.

    Good luck!

  7. Thank you all for your comments - yes the speaker is pivotal - it both reperesents the Magical guy (yet unseen) who invisibly watches her - the smoke smell is him too - not just the speaker, and it also represents that he is old, broken, dangerous. The tryouts are important because it sets her on a path of Doing instead of watching. The fire and ice theme is a large part of the story so both images of bobsleigh out of control once set in motion - and things people miss hidden in plain sight Is important.

    The cheer tryouts make her instantly freak - sick even. I didn't expect anyone to wonder if she was male or female (though boy's do cheer)

    The first few lines do have a tense change - because she has discovered that wishes for magical things she's read about are a double edged sword - then we slide to the moment it all begins - when she first smelled the smoke of her Djinn and thought she took control of her life.

    I so appreciate everyones comments so that I may go about tweeking things for better flow and understanding!