So you can read my books

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ABNA_How to win the first 2 rounds_Really.

Entry period is open. Visit CreateSpace to enter today!

ABNA 2013 Bigger and Better
It has been a week since ABNA opened and you've submitted your entry.

A week for you to have distanced yourself from your PITCH, EXCERPT, and FULL MANUSCRIPT.

Hemingway said it:

Great writing is re-writing. Time to roll up those sleeves, gentle people.



     There.  I've said what we all know:
     even with an entry written by Ray Bradbury's ghost,
     you have to hit the right reader at the right time in the right mood with the right genre.

     Now, onto the things we can actually do something about.


     A. How do you examine a hot coal?  Damn fast. 
          That is how fast the reader will look at
          your PITCH and EXCERPT.
     B. You must hook the reader with the first sentence or at least the first paragraph,

     C. We're talking 10,000 PITCHES here.  Yours will get 3 minutes if it's great.  Guess how
          long you'll get if your pitch is obvious, cliched, or boring?

     D. What the reader wants to see:

             1.) She looks for something new -- something she haven't seen before -- in the first

             2.) Something unique about the character or situation that makes her want to
                  continue reading.

     E.) What the reader DOES NOT WANT TO SEE:

             1.) Wordiness -
                      When the "silver coin of the moon rolls slowly up the black velvet purse of
                       the newly minted night," the reader wonders why the moon didn't simply rise
                       and save everyone a good deal of trouble.
             2.) Pompous words -
                  Does 'ascended' sound appropriate to describe a man walking up a few steps?
                  I don't think Jesus even ever thought of himself "ascending" when walking up steps.
             3.) Characters that do not engage the heart.
                  Wounded heroes who struggle on because innocents depend on them or the nagging
                   ghosts of their past will not leave them alone engage us ... from Frodo to Maximus
                   of GLADIATOR.
             4.) STEREOTYPES -
                  Why are all politicians crooked? (Ah, all right, most of them are)  But the exception
                  would make for a unique dynamic. 
                   Why are ALL vampires sexy predators who lounge about all night?  C'mon. 
                   They have centuries on their pale hands.  You mean, none of them thought to
                   LEARN something along the way? 
                   Basket weaving. Accounting. Martial Arts.  Can you imagine how deadly in martial
                   arts or sorcery a vampire could get in 300 years?  How about a vampire U.S.
             5.) TRITE PLOT OR NO PLOT -
                  Instead of another divorce story narrated by a despondent spouse,
                  how about one narrated
by the couple's beloved cat?
                  Readers don't want last week's FRINGE plot.
                  That said: If the characters are real enough then a recycled plot can work,
                  because if the character is new, the story is too.
                  Take that vampire U.S. President: he has changed over the centuries:
                           he wants to make amends for the murders he committed when another man.
                  He sees that while humans die so quickly, America can grow into something
                           better as he has.
             6.) NO POINT -
                  My single personal demand from a story:
                  That it add up to something.
                          That it shock me, scare me, unnerve me, make me think,
                          or cry, or vomit. (No, wait. Some bad stories have made me do that.)
                  But avoid preachiness.  Write so as to let the reader come to her own conclusions.
                  Avoid personal baggage: no one wants to see your dirty laundry in their inbox.
             7.) Remember:
                  Introducing a story to a reader is a lot like delivering a pickup line to someone:
                  do it the wrong way,
                  and they’ll wind up under the covers with a different… book.
     Here is how a few greats did it:
     1. Ice, Ice Ba—Whaaat?
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Creative Thought Process:
Before getting into that whole “ice” thing, unceremoniously mention that Buendía eventually has to stare down a firing squad. That’ll buy at least a hundred pages of curiosity.

Fahrenheit 4512. A Real Page-Burner

“It was a pleasure to burn.”
Author: Ray Bradbury
Creative Thought Process:
Juxtapose the anarchic verb “to burn” with an alluring noun like “pleasure.” Hope a major cigarette company doesn’t steal the phrase some forty years down the road.

19843. April Cowers

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Book: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Creative Thought Process:
To properly set the mood for a futuristic dystopia, combine the elements of springtime, coldness, an unlucky number, and bells tolling. Then, watch people fight over the feasibility of a clock that can strike thirteen.

Beloved4. Post-Partum Possession

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”
Book: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
Creative Thought Process:
Make the subject of the sentence an obscure sequence of numbers to get the reader’s attention. In case that doesn’t work, follow up with a terrifying, baby-related metaphor.

5. F. M. L.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”
Author: Franz Kafka
Creative Thought Process:
Ease the reader into Gregor Samsa’s misfortunes by describing his nightsweats about… Meh, skip to the giant cockroach
6. …Goes To-gether Like a Fish and a Bicycle!
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Creative Thought Process:
Give the readers an impossibly oversimplified statement about mankind, then sit back and watch them realize that it’s actually true.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn7. The Reckonin’

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.”
Author: Mark Twain
Creative Thought Process:
Write a 43-chapter novel entirely in rural slang. From the perspective of a 13-year-old boy. Who’s uneducated. While you’re at it, make it the greatest novel in American history.

Pride and Prejudice8. Universal Spoof

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Author: Jane Austen
Creative Thought Process:
Write sarcastically during an era so prudish that future generations will actually mistake you as being serious. 
{For more great opening lines go to       


  1. Ascended works for a spacecraft though. Just have to know when to use your words.
    How long before they announce the next round finalists?

  2. Alex:
    Words are like scalpels - they can be helpful or hurtful - all depends on how you use them!

    People have only 7 more days to edit their entries or sooner if 10,000 entries are received!

    The PITCH ROUND has its winners announced February 13, 2013 where up to 2,000 entries will move into the EXCERPT ROUND.

  3. HI, Roland,

    Great advice as usual. CLEAN, CONCISE, AND ACTIVE... that's the way to grab their attention!