We have been critiquing first paragraphs of novels that my loyal blog readers have submitted over the last couple of weeks. Are you getting tired of this, or shall we continue a bit longer? If you want to switch, what topic is burning in you right now? What shall we talk about next?
I am coming up on a major deadline and have had to skip blogging the last couple of days, but hope to get time to blog tonight.
Katie Hart says
Keep critiquing – my paragraph’s only two away! 😉
The one-sentence summaries and first paragraphs have been illustrative and useful.
I’m wondering if it would be a worthwhile exercise to talk about one-sentence summaries, first paragraphs, etc for existing novels? I know you already have a complete example snowflake for Gone With the Wind, but it would be great to see the thought-process as it happens, going through some of the steps of the snowflake.
And it’d be easier to comment on and think about a work we’re familiar with than these paragraphs where we don’t really know the context. So it could be more participatory.
Just a thought.
The step after the one-sentence summary is the one-paragraph summary. Would you want to discuss that one at length?
Or I do remember a two-paragraph synopsis being mentioned once. I’m a little fuzzy on the difference between the paragraph summary and the synopsis.
Perhaps a discussion about both types and a review of one or the other could be next?
It’s one or both of these that show that your storyline may be broken so I think they are pretty important.
Just an idea…
Kristi Holl says
I’d love to hear about how you make crunch deadlines, how you juggle priorities, what has to give and for how long, if you let marketing go while making deadlines, etc. And if you can do it without your blood pressure rising, I’d REALLY like to know that.
I’m enjoying the paragraph’s too. I love reading how you or others critique paragraphs. It’s interesting to see the before and afters.
Stephanie Rising says
How about a contest on writing one sentence summaries, first paragraphs or something along those lines? Top 3 best could be recognized by Randy. I think it would be an honor to win.
Btw, I would be willing to pay for a first paragraph critique, since mine clearly won’t be reached.
Daan Van der Merwe says
I love this blog no matter what! I don’t care if we continue wuth first paragraphs or pursue a new topic. But PLEASE critique Katie’s paragraph. 🙂
Tami Meyers says
I would like to see you do more of the first paragraphs, even though I know you’ll burn out way before you ever get to mine.
If you’re already bored to tears (and we don’t want to see a grown man cry) how about discussing how you come up with a title. I know that isn’t the most important part of writing, but it is the first thing that the potential reader sees.
I really like this topic, but if we could change, could we do characters? Making real, imperfect characters, yet not such disgusting people that the audience will hate them? How to avoid stereotypes? How to not write a character that will bore your readers to tears? And also…how to mimic a certain normal matureness? A character does mature over the book, and sometimes it’s just plain hard to show it.
Just my two cents.
I haven’t posted here for a while. I’m the Aussie from Western Australia. You probably won’t remember. Anyway, I have been reading the blog and finding the paragraphs and critiques interesting. I would like to see more but I would also like to know how to write a child character into an adult character over the course of time in the book and from that POV. And adult is going to mature, as Destiny says, but it would be a subtle thing, I think but a child growing into an adult is a major change. It would be useful to know how to handle that one, in the book, that is.
Um meant to write An adult not And adult. Trying to get the post in too quick.
Keep going! I’m only a dozen or so away. 🙂
Carrie Neuman says
I was going to ask for dialogue help, but I like Destiny’s suggestion of characters. I know it’s the first step to great dialogue, so if I’m not getting the important bits of the characters like I think I am, that could be my problem right there.
(I’m trying to write a series of insults leading up to a fist fight, and I’m terrible. I know what would hurt the character the most, and I know how they talk in general, but I just can’t get the biting, painful insults on the page. They make me feel bad.)
Pam Halter says
Before a potential reader opens your book to read that first line or paragraph, they read the back cover copy first.
I’d like to talk about writing back cover copy. What do you say? What do you give away? What kind of hook will compel the reader to buy the book based on the back cover?
I actually suggested this critique of first paragraph and hope that mine would be reached by Randy.
I agree with Pam about the importance of the back cover, but then the majority learning how to write fiction through this blog would want to get the craft and even contract first before thinking of the cover 🙂
More paragraphs, please!
bonne friesen says
The one sentence summary goes in the back cover copy, so it’s really all related.
I’d suggest we take a detour to another topic for a while and then return to paragraphs. Something completely different like organising your writing space/ files would be refreshing before diving back in.
My two cents.
Christophe Desmecht says
I think we can stay on the topic of first paragraphs for a while 🙂
I haven’t been posting many comments, but have been following the discussions with great interest!
Thanks for taking of your time to give us so much helpful information.
I, too, would like to see you critique a few more first paragraphs. For a new topic, I like the idea of getting into one paragraph summaries.
While first paragraphs are great, and there’s always more to learn, I’m interested in POV at the moment. A question that is currently on my mind:
What if the proganist has special powers but is not particularly sympathetic (picture Sherlock Holmes perhaps) and yet the intimacy of having the story told in first person by a sidekick (Watson) doesn’t feel right because it makes the overall tone too claustrophobic?
The novel behind this question is a “literary” one, and is intended to be the first in a series.
Even if you’re not into discussing this particular question the topic of POV is a fascinating one, and one with which all novelists must at some point address.
“So come on, let’s do it!” she said/he said/I said/you said.
Barb Haley says
I, too, am learning SO much from your critiques and woudn’t mind continuing. If you do decide to take a break, maybe you could do 5-10 of the paragraphs you already have in between the future topic switches.
I’d be interested in a bit of training on e-books. How long they should be, how much to charge, the best way to handle payment and distribution, etc.
Thanks, Randy. I’ll be praying for you as you head into your deadline.
Parker Haynes says
Several interesting possibilities suggested in the comments above. I think the choice should be yours, Randy, as you put a lot of time and effort into helping us, your readers. I never fail to learn something here.
Sure, I’d like to see the first paragraph critiques continue. Like many of us, I’m curious to hear suggestions, both yours and commenter’s on mine. Or maybe not, since it is one of those “pesky literary” openings devoted to setting, and mood, with character introduction only a name–no conflict yet.
Good luck with your deadline!
Before we go on to another subject, I think 1) Katie’s paragraph should be critiqued and 2) we should look at a couple of first paragraphs from existing novels like Sean said.
If we have to move on, though, I like Debra’s suggestion – seeing how the POV child matures into an adult.
And Carrie, I don’t know of you’ve read this book, but it’s called Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Mass (a bit different from Writing the Breakout Novel). There is a chapter in there about making larger-than-life characters and it has really helped me with making sharp, realistic dialogue.
There is an exercise in this chapter that has you write down something you protagonist would never, ever say. Then you make your protagonist say that very thing (in your case, before the fight) and it will make your character, and his dialogue in that scene, seem larger-than-life because what he said was a surprise. It was big, outrageous, and satisfying, so it will be memorable.
The same applies to what your protagonist does and thinks as well.
In this book, Donald Mass says:
“A larger-than-life character is one who says, does, and thinks things that we would like to but never dare. This does not necessarily mean turning your characters into wise-crackers or pulp cliches. It does mean pushing them out of their own bounds, whatever those might me.”
I don’t know if that helped at all. Hope it did. 🙂
Karla Akins says
It doesn’t matter to me, but I think Katie really wants to be critiqued! 🙂 Anything you share is awesome. I go back and listen to your teachings all the time and learn something new every time. I think we will learn no matter what you are blogging about.
Hmmmm…..I’d say it’s about time to go onto something else…
I think I’d be great to do characters. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me it’s almost impossible to get them to the depth that I want them. Maybe we could even make up a couple people as a AFW (Advanced Fiction Writer’s) Community. I realize this may be unrealistic because people have different methods of characterization, but it’d be nice if we could all go throught one together, especially one that no one knew of, starting from scratch.
Carrie Neuman says
Thanks for the tip, Kayla. I’ll have to look for that next time I go to the bookstore. (I’m old fashioned. I like to flip through the pages and read something at random to see if it fits me.)
Pamela Cosel says
I like Destiny’s suggestion too about characters, though I think doing first paragraphs for perhaps another week or so would be good instruction as we review examples. Thanks, Randy, for all you do here.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
While looking for something completely different I chanced upon the Dramatica system last week. I have been working through it for the last week and find it both enlightening and frustrating stuff.
Do you have any knowledge of the system and if you do any opinion?
Added onto that I would like to talk about genre style and structure and how the three interrelate. What I mean is that how do you figure out what type of novel you want to write or are busy writing and how much is natural and how much is choice?
I wouldn’t mind talking about critique groups. Finding a group, joining, how to create one if there isn’t one and what to actually DO in a critique group.
I enjoy working examples. Whether it’s first paragraph’s or summary sentences, I learn more from critiques and offered rewrites. The varied perspective from the group is intoxicating.
Things I’d like to see more of are the building blocks – the MRU’s and Scenes and Sequels. I read the example MRU in the advancedfictionwriting.com and want more.
Rita Gerlach says
Recently I received a ‘glowing’ rejection letter from an agent. She mentioned that editors want to see in the first chapter or prologue a ‘dramatic scaffolding’. I’ve asked other writers about this, and no one has come up with a clear definition. If you can explain it, I think this would be a great topic for discussion.
Editor for Stepping Stones Magazine for Writers: http://www.freewebs.com/steppingstonesforwriters/index.htm
I like the idea of talking about characters (maybe doing dialogue samples?). But the paragraphs are interesting, too. I just like reading your blog, so I’ll be here anyway. 😀