free the pen, a blog for writers

August 14, 2014

Enter the First Paragraph Contest!

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 8:46 pm
“First Paragraph” Contest Now Open
By Matilda Butler, Award-winning author of the collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story and Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep and Co-Founder
Faster than a speeding bullet.
In a New York minute.
Life in the fast lane.
Everywhere we turn, we are told to move quickly, get the job done, reach the next goal. Even Amazon urges us to “Order in the next 23 minutes to get this item by tomorrow.” 
So it’s not surprising that when we begin a memoir or novel, we want to toss off a paragraph or two to get the book started. Then we can get on with the serious business of telling our story.
Wait. Slow down. Give careful attention to the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page. The opening of your book is your first, best, and perhaps only opportunity to get your reader interested. The opening is much more than a hook to grab your reader, but the hook needs to be there. You might consider the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero: “It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.”  
Use the seven items below to help with your reflection, force of character, and judgment when crafting your opening:
1. Hook your reader; compel him or her to want to know what comes next. Don’t think the reader will be patient with you until you can get around to the actual story.
2. Lean in. Share a sense of excitement as you build energy both in your story and in the reader’s anticipation.
3. Create the beginning of a relationship with the reader–a relationship that will deepen over the following pages.
4. Set the tone. If you begin with humor or horror then you have set the reader’s mind. 
5. Establish the point of view.
6. Show tension — internal or external.
7. Foreshadow the larger issue/problem/story.
The opening can be written in as many ways as there are authors and stories. I’ve asked students to write two completely different openings to a memoir vignette and then explain what they like and dislike about each. Next the rest of the class shares their reactions. It is fascinating how one opening is almost universally considered better by the whole group. Usually it has to do with an emotional link to the story. 
What’s the Opening to Your Memoir or Novel?
Pamela Jane Bell, author of fiction and nonfiction books, is a regular guest blogger at  She has announced a FIRST PARAGRAPH contest and we want to invite you to submit your first paragraph. Perhaps you will be one of our winners. Be sure to click on the link below right away and get all the details. Then remember to submit before September 3. Winners will be announced in late September.
Now get to writing!
Thank you Matilda,
Jan, CEO and Founder of About the Author Network

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