A Novel’s First Sentences

A Novel’s First Sentences

By Megan DiMaria

I’ll say it up front: I’m a real sucker for a good first sentence in a novel. I may read on if the sentence is ho-hum, but I’ll read more eagerly if the first sentence pulls me into the story.

Like many readers I’ll peruse the books on a shelf and pick up novels by authors I’ve previously enjoyed or select a book whose title or cover catches my eye. I’ll flip it over and read the back cover copy and then turn to the first page. Reading the first lines of a novel is like going out on a blind date: I don’t know what to expect, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised, swept off my feet, and fall madly in love.

Some people contend that the most difficult sentences to write in a novel are the first ones. After all, they are the hook that draws people in. My favorite first sentences are the ones that make me ask, “what??” —the lines that peak my curiosity and leave me panting for more. Please don’t give me a weather report or tell me what the character looks like. I want to read a provocative statement or a question that has me hungering for an answer.

Of course there are some first lines from bestselling authors that are so boring I want to toss the book across the room, but then because it was written by a bestselling author, I read on. After all, their books sell, and they could probably post their grocery list on the first page and people would read on. However, for the rest of us authors, we need to give our readers some lines that will keep them engaged.

Here are a few of my favorite first lines:

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A Stretchy Writing Challenge Quarter – Genre-ally Speaking :)

Have you checked out the topics for the FaithWriters’ Writing Challenge the past few weeks? We are revisiting a theme from way back in 2007 – one that was extremely popular and a serious growth experience for many who participated back then (including yours truly!).

Welcome to the genre quarter, 2014!

We are in week three of the quarter – and the current challenge is to write for the science fiction and/or fantasy genre. Guidelines are just like any other time – a minimum of 150 words and a maximum of 750, with a Christian worldview (See complete guidelines here), written new for the Writing Challenge, and only one entry per person. The current topic closes this coming Thursday at 11am ET, when a NEW genre will be announced. Don’t be afraid to try something new – it is the best way to stretch your writing muscles and possibly even find a new favorite genre to write in.

Go here to enter your story – and be sure to check out the entries from the previous week (and give out some coveted gold comment boxes). Right now, the entries live and available for comment are in the humor genre.

Also, to help out, FaithWriters regular and teacher extraordinaire Jan Ackerson will be posting a writing lesson on the FaithWriters message boards on the genre of the week on Saturday. Check out her lesson for fantasy here, and one for science fiction here. Watch for future lessons to correspond to future genres each Saturday.

Gold and Platinum members can enter the challenge every week if they want – silver members can try it out a total of four times. (Click here to upgrade)

Are you ready to try something new? Rise to the challenge!

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Be Ready to Rumble, Write, and Win

Get Ready to Rumble, Write and Win
By Jacqueline B. Broy

Stepping into the unknown is exciting and scary. Everyone’s idea of risk is different but what can prevent us from crossing the line into the new is a very old and cunning adversary. It’s fear.

My latest struggle with fear was writing this article. Some months back I had bought several writers’ resource guides to select the potential magazines for my very first article. I printed out the writing guidelines to be sure I met the requirements. Paper, pencil, red pen, and computer were waiting for my brilliance to spill out. But time moved on and my writing book had only the beginnings of several somethings. They were like balls of clay that never shaped into a solid piece. Anxiety began to slowly creep around me, leaving the door open to indecision. I had no clear idea what to write.

Vicious thoughts started floating in my mind. “Who’d want to read your stuff anyway?” “Your writing isn’t good enough.” “You’re out of your league.” I was beginning to question this new direction from God. I was paralyzed by this assault. If I truly wanted the future God has for me, I would have to fight to win in the present.

One powerful weapon is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 calls God’s Word the sword of the Spirit, an offensive weapon to be used by believers. In Jeremiah 23:29, God reminds us that His word is like fire and a hammer, able to break rock into pieces. Jesus has shown us how to use the Word against Satan. Luke 4:1-14 records Jesus going through a wilderness trial for forty days. Three times Satan tries to trip up Jesus, and every time He comes back with the Word of God. He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, triumphed over the enemy with the Word, and came out in the fullness of power of the Spirit.

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Win a Xulon Bestseller Package – Deadline Approaching

The deadline to enter either of two contests to win a Xulon Bestseller Package is sneaking up on us – are you preparing to enter either of them? Check out the details here!

If you have, or are working on, a fiction manuscript with a strong biblical message and are a Platinum member of FaithWriters (click here to upgrade), you can enter it in FaithWriters’ contest. Just submit the first chapter, a basic synopsis of the planned book, and a clear explanation of the lesson/teaching. But don’t delay – the deadline is less than two months away!

After the November 31, 2014 deadline, each entry will be judged, and one winner will receive a Xulon Press Bestseller Package (retail value of over $4,000) and free premium publicity and marketing of the completed book on all FaithWriters’ sites. Check for more detailed guidelines, and directions for entering, here.

The second way to win this Christian self-publishing package is open to ALL FaithWriters members – platinum, gold, and silver. And you don’t need a manuscript! FaithWriters is holding an old-fashioned raffle with a high-tech touch. Do any of dozens of activities on and about the FaithWriters site and get entries into this raffle. Are you a gold member? That’s five points. You can get another ten points each week you enter the Writing Challenge, and four each day you give a critique in the critique circle. Points are also available for subscribing to the FaithWriters newsletter, entering the Page Turner nonfiction contest, and more. Once the raffle closes on November 31, a winner will be drawn randomly from all entries. Check out details on this page (scroll to the bottom).

So, get busy – you only have a month and a half! Are you entering?

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A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

By Lori Godfrey

The morning looked to be a dismal day, one that would keep a person inside. Maybe a book reading day, I thought. Or a chance to continue my memoir. As a child I would ask my mom, “Mom how do you know I will write?” “Because you love to write,” she would say.

Mom was correct. I began writing at a young age and continue today. Writing a memoir is a journey into a different realm. Writing about your life takes on a new meaning. The past, with its memories, whether good or bad, come to the surface of our minds.

A memoir is not complete until the memories fade beneath the crevices of our mind. Writing is a work in progress, never ending until the day we die. Writers make up several class of people. There are no two alike. Just as the languages of the world are diverse, so are the ones who pen words to paper.

By the afternoon, the sun decided to peek from the clouds and a day of outdoors began. Summer had the bids on outdoor activities, writer or not. A schedule would ensue for the one who passionately pursued her craft and work in progress would continue.

Just as the seasons change, time also moves forward. Life is a entity of uncertainties but people with talent also put forth the effort to continue along the path of creativity: no matter the hours or frustration it can bring.

The work in progress stems from our ability to see within ourselves and know we can create something from the talent God has given. The question being, Do we have enough confidence in ourselves to live the life we know we’re to live?

As writers, can we fulfill the call we have on our life? There are those who write for the good and those who write for the dark side. We, along with our conscience as our guide, have to arrive at the moment of decision.

Each individual has a work in progress. Our lives are a masterpiece woven between the heart and mind of the One who created us. Let us pen the words He so lovingly inspired upon our hearts with such gratitude that even we are taken back.

**
About Lori Godfrey: I am a Christian freelance writer reaching out to those who want answers to life’s problems through creative writing. I also write for a bi- monthly Christian magazine, as well as being published in my home town newspaper. I am an author, writer and mom. My sons and I reside in the south.

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Page Turner Deadline Only Weeks Away!

Got a great nonfiction book in your drawer? Or started on your computer? Or even just an idea for one? If you are a FaithWriters Platinum member, there is a fabulous contest you can enter, at no charge, that could get your book published. But don’t delay – the deadline to enter is only just over three weeks away!

The eighth annual Page Turner writing contest (sponsored by FaithWriters.com, Finesse Writing and Editing Service, and Breath of Fresh Air Press)is into the home stretch, and this year, it’s for non-fiction. All you need to do is write the first chapter, together with a basic book proposal/overview of the planned book, and then submit it. But you only have until the end of this month to do it.

If you are a member of the FaithWriters Platinum 500 , you are invited to enter this very special contest created just for you. If you are not yet a Platinum member (click here to upgrade), this is the perfect reason to upgrade your membership.

The deadline to enter is October 31, 2014 – that’s only 24 days from today!

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12 Promises Writers MUST Make to Themselves to Fulfill Their Dreams

12 Promises Writers MUST Make to Themselves to Fulfill Their Dreams

by Edie Melson

The writing life isn’t an easy one. It’s one filled with joy, but also has its painful side. With any lifestyle that requires the courage to follow a dream, there are frequent roadblocks and obstacles.

Many of these are imposed from others. Just announce that you’re following your heart and people seem to come out of the woodwork to tell you why it can’t—and/or shouldn’t—be done. In addition to the naysayers, we can also be responsible for causing our own stumbling blocks.
Today I want to focus on the things we can do—promises we can make to ourselves—that will make things easier.
I Promise . . .
1. I will not hold the past against me. Just like the rest of our lives, our writing journeys will be fraught with poor decisions and missed opportunities. Those aren’t usually things we can go back and change. Instead we need to learn from the past, but not choose to dwell there.
2. I will speak gently and kindly to myself. I don’t know about you, but I’m often my worst critic. I’m the first one to say things I’d never accept from someone else. I’ve been known to berate myself internally with thoughts of
  • I’ll never be able to succeed, I should just give up.
  • I’m a horrible writer, no one wants to read what I write.
  • Everything I write is bad.
3. I will spend some time every week writing something I WANT to write. As we progress in our careers (and sometimes even before) we get caught up in deadlines and commitments. It’s important to always keep the joy of writing somewhere in our lives.
4. I will let go of relationships that keep me from following my dream. This may mean letting go of a vicious critique group, or distancing yourself from a friend who discourages you from writing, or even backing away from someone who takes up too much of your writing time. I’m NOT talking about abandoning people we love (certainly not children and spouses) but about those other relationships that can suck us dry and leave us with little or no energy to write.
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Congratulations to Summer Quarter Writing Challenge Cash Winners!

The FaithWriters’ Writing Challenge is on a break right now, with the last winners of the Goes Together LIke” quarter announced just last week. And that means it’s time to announce the four winners of the quarterly level awards. The highest scoring entry in EACH LEVEL over each entire ten-week quarter receives a $50 cash prize.

Level 1: BEGINNERS – Saddle for Sale by Rachel Barrett (Pen and Paper Challenge)

Level 2: INTERMEDIATE – Dear Doctor C.E.O. by Diane Bowman (Pen and Paper Challenge)

 Level 3: ADVANCED – And the Beat Goes On by Veronica Winley (Husband and Wife Challenge)

Level 4: MASTERS – Fleeting Moments of Forever by Ann Grover (Husband and Wife Challenge)

Ann says: “Thank you, FaithWriters! After a three year hiatus from FW, I am excited to be back. Thank you for your support, love, prayers, and encouragement through the years.”

The new challenge quarter (with an old favorite as a theme!) starts up again in just a couple days – on Thursday, October 2. Be sure to give it a try – and YOUR name could be here next time!

CONGRATULATIONS, RACHEL, DIANE, VERONICA, and ANN!

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An Interview with God’s Word

An Interview With God’s Word
By Abby Kelly

Have you ever heard of the “5 W’s and an H”?

I studied journalism in college. I loved reporting, interviewing, writing and even editing articles. My favorite part was talking to people I’d never met, asking them questions and then piecing the story together. Being concise is one of the most important elements of writing a news story. I remember Dr. Senat saying over and over, “Cut out the extras! Get to the point! Answer all the reader’s questions and then stop writing!”

The best tool Dr. Senat gave his students as we were learning to write “tightly” were the “5 W’s and an H”. So, I figured, it might also be a good tool to pull together the most vital information about the Bible. Let’s ask God’s Word these questions!

Who is the Word of God? John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

The Word of God is much more than just the thick book you carry to church. It’s more than a collection of stories or even a “road map to heaven”. The Word of God is a person.

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This means that Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

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Cutting Extraneous Words from your Manuscript

Cutting Extraneous Words from your Manuscript

Dialogue Tags and Adverbs

by Suzanne Hartmann

There are many different words that can be cut from a manuscript. Here, author Suzanne Hartmann talks about two of them – check out her series on this topic for more examples.

Dialogue Tags are phrases that identify who is speaking. It is necessary to let the reader know who is speaking, but excessive use of dialogue tags gets old quickly.

Examples =
“Pass me the bread, please,” Diana said.

“Don’ t you know you’re not supposed to do that?” asked Johnny.

When there are only two speakers, it is often obvious who is speaking because the dialogue goes back and forth between the speakers, although if the dialogue runs long, a reader can still get confused.

An occasional action beat is another way to let the reader know who is speaking, or letting us know the speaker’s thoughts.

Examples =
“Pass me the bread, please.” Diana scooped out a chunk of butter and waited for the bread basket to come her way.

“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to do that?” Johnny scowled at his little brother.

“Your painting is wonderful, Sammy. You’ve improved so much this semester.” In her mind, his mother compared the first painting he’d brought home with the one she held in her hand.

Too many action beats within the dialogue, however, can become distracting. The key is variety. Mix it up and keep it interesting.

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