FIRST the BAD NEWS ...
I. AMERICAN IDOL-itis
A. Of late, ABNA has come down with a bad case of AMERICAN IDOL-itis
At some point in the selection, our entries can be voted on by Amazon's "readers" -- ouch!
With the popularity of AMERICAN IDOL, it seems a great many readers can't wait to parade their
rapier wit at the expense of validity or accuracy of the prose assaulted.
B. The judges even seem all too often to fall prey to that temptation or perhaps they are swamped with
a tidal wave of entries to judge, reading only the first page or so.
II. THE EXCERPT -
A. Last time, I told you how to write a winning PITCH, now for how to write a winning EXCERPT:
B. WHAT WILL YOU BE JUDGED ON?
Excerpts from each novel will be read, reviewed and rated by Amazon editors and top reviewers.
They will be judged on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent)
based on the excerpt's overall:
Originality of the excerpt
III. You have ONLY THE FIRST PAGE to exhibit quality in those 5 areas.
A. Actually, if your 1st paragraph doesn't impress the judge, she/he will reject you.
B. Remember she/he has hundreds of 5,000 word entries to read (you know no one is going to
submit just 3,000 words.)
C. BUT if your first 250 words do not make her sit up with happy surprise, the rest of your words
will go unread.
D. Polish each sentence as if that is the only one the judge will read, for that very well may be the case!
E. Read each sentence aloud for the music and rhythm of it. Then, read the 1st paragraph for the
F. LOOK at the first page through the bleary, tired eyes of a judge:
1.) Is the page filled with clunky paragraphs with little white space?
2.) Is the page inviting to tired eyes with lots of white space and short sentences?
G. Does it END and BEGIN with a hook?
H. Will the judge feel that it is a fresh look at your genre?
I. Will the judge feel that a browser will feel driven to read more?
J. Does your first page contain a quotable line, something a reader will burn to share with a friend?
I hope this helps in some small way, friends.
And here is my first page:
THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH
A kid shouldn't be taking this many bus trips alone. I smiled so bitter it tasted of salt. Who was I kidding? "Alone" was the story of my life.
Alone didn’t necessarily mean lonely, mind you. I was hardly ever that. People trying to kill you most every day kept things from becoming boring. I studied the faces of the people on the bus with me. Not every enemy I made tried to kill me in person. The more successful types wouldn’t dirty their hands with a bottom feeder like me. They sent their flunkies.
But killers all had that owned look. They tried to lie to themselves about how free they were, how above it all they were. But they were under the thumb of their need to kill, to please their boss, or to pay for their next fix.
Most adults like to think they’ve dumped their past behind them. They polish the buttons of their adult uniforms, firm in the belief that all the ugly baggage is gone. But everyone has luggage of fears and regrets trailing them, waiting for some dark night for that knock on the door demanding postage due.
Except for me. I was a gypsy. No baggage allowed.
I scowled at my vivid imagination. It was my best friend, but it was also my worst enemy. Imagination could be either good or bad. Leonardo imagined great paintings into existence. Hitler imagined death camps and built them. Imagination was so powerful that you had to be careful because you could imagine things into existence that you might regret later on. Everything in the universe was an idea before it was real.
And some ideas kill.***
Neil Gaiman's lost the friend who taught him how to love again. Keep him in your best thoughts. The next few days will be hard