Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 27, 2011

First Paragraph/Call for Submissions/Writing Contests

Whether a story is a picture book, a short story, or a 100,000-word novel, the most important passage is the first paragraph. The beginning paragraph introduces the reader to your writing style. This is where the reader meets the character for the first time, along with the time and place of the story. Voice comes into play early. This introduction should capture the readers' interest, making them want to read on.

The beginning paragraph should start the story at a point where the character’s life will forever be changed. There is no room for backstory in the first paragraph. The story should start with some conflict that makes that day in the character’s life different. Or use intrigue to hook the reader. Make the reader want to find out what is going to happen as you hint at the problem that lies ahead. A strong beginning raises questions in the readers’ minds, questions they want answered.

Study the opening sentences in popular books and in new books you find. Notice how the author introduced the character and set up the story. Identify what the author did to grab you interest immediately. Make a list of different methods used to grab and hold your attention in the first paragraph. Some authors use humor, unusual phrasing, a surprising statement, a mystery, odd facts, and numerous other hooks. What worked for you?

Next week, I’ll discuss types of endings/conclusions.

Call for Submissions/Contest:
*The Threepenny Review* reopens to submissions in January, at which point it
will also begin allowing online submissions through a new submission system. No
simultaneous submissions. Pays: "At present *The Threepenny Review* is paying
$400 per story or article, $200 per poem or Table Talk piece."

National Pet Week Writing Contest for Young Writers
The Auxiliary to The American Veterinary Medical Association is pleased to announce a call for entries to their annual writing and poster contests. The deadline is March 16, 2011. The winning entries will be used to promote the 2012 National Pet Week theme "Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes". Contest winners
will each receive $300. The writing contest is open to third to fifth graders. Entrants are invited to submit poems, essays, or stories 20 to 200 words in length. Entries must be submitted in the body of an e-mail to along with the entrant's name, address, grade in school, phone number and age.
The poster contest is open to artists of any age. The poster may be any size and must be colorful. Do not fold, staple, or send by fax. The use of crayons is discouraged because it does not copy well. Magic markers, dark colored pencils, and watercolor in bright shades, etc. tend to make a more attractive and reproducible entry. Posters with photos, magazine cut-outs, or additional elements of this type are
automatically disqualified. Entries must be postmarked by March 16, 2011 and mailed to:
Jewel Allen, 326 Ranch Road, Grantsville, Utah 84029. Go to the website and click on
"National Pet Week". Inquiries may be sent to
Details at

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