Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Go Teen Writers Contest: Great First Lines

by Stephanie Morrill

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break full of family, friends, reading, and writing. With my husband home, I had some dedicated time to work on revisions for my upcoming release, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet as well as time with my favorite little kids:

Connor age 2 1/2, McKenna age 5

I know many of you were hard at work too because I kept seeing announcements of goals achieved on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group.

We have a really exciting year ahead of us on Go Teen Writers - lots of big contests and challenges in the works, plus Jill and I are releasing a book on turning your first draft into an edited, publishable novel. And we thought a great way to start the year would be to have a contest to help strengthen the first lines of our novels. Great books deserve to have great opening lines, and this week we're going to give you a chance to test out some of yours with published authors Laura L. Smith and Betsy St. Amant.

The goal of a first sentence is to draw in your reader, and the best way to do that is to raise a question in their mind. Here are some examples of great first sentences:


“Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie.” – The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot

What is she lying about? Why does she have to lie? Who is she lying to? (And, ironically, Mia’s been lied to all her life, so this first line is extra fab.)

“The name of the song is “This Lullaby.” At this point, I’ve probably heard it, oh, about a million times.” -This Lullaby, Sarah Dessen (Yes, that was technically two sentences. I love this book. I couldn't help myself!)

What’s the deal with the song? Why has she heard it so often? I also love the clear, strong voice of Remy coming through.

“The Haddan School was built in 1858 on the sloping banks of the Haddan River, a muddy and precarious location that had proven disastrous from the start.” – The River King, Alice Hoffman

Oooh, intrigue. Why did they pick that location? And how has it been a disaster?

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” – Emma, Jane Austen

The question this makes me ask is, what’s about to distress and vex her?

“I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.” – Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

So many questions. Why’s she about to die? And how? And who’s killing her? And why? And why has she had lots of reasons to think about death recently? An excellent first line, and about a hundred times better than the first line of chapter one, which is, “My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.” While this does prompt a question (Where is she going?) it’s not great.

Now we want to see what you've got!


Go Teen Writers contests are open to writers ages 21 and under.

For this special contest, you may submit up to three different first sentences using the form below. They can be from different manuscripts, a manuscript you haven't even written yet, or several sentences you're trying to decide between for one story.

This contest is unique in that there's no word limit, just a "one sentence limit." If your first sentence is actually just one word, you may include one additional sentence. For example:

Boom. At the sound of the cannon, Emily sat up in bed.

This contest closes on Tuesday, January 8th.

Many thanks to our judges:



Laura L. Smith

Laura's books in her own words: "I write real stories for real girls. There are no fairy godmothers or magic wands. Magical beasts don’t fill my pages nor do Prince Charmings. Instead I write about people like me, about characters who are multiple shades of people I know. I write about tough issues that no one wants to talk about. Things that stop a conversation at a dinner party in its tracks, or really heat it up. I write about eating disorders and sex and divorce and death and rape. I write about things that so many people deal with in the dark, in their personal “closets”, alone. I write to give them a voice, a sounding board, a place to start."

Betsy St. Amant

Betsy St. Amant is one Good Girl who enjoys writing about Bad Boys in her YA fiction novels. She lives in Louisiana with her fireman hubby and adorable preschooler, is often found consuming massive amounts of chocolate, and is an avid reader who is constantly wondering where Mr. Darcy went. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her eighth Love Inspired novel will release this Fall, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she's not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her young daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

Please use the form below to submit your entries. Sentences that are emailed to me will not be entered in the contest.




40 comments:

  1. Yay!!!!! I am so glad GTW is back. One of the worst things about breaks is all the schedules get messed up :(

    Awesome contest, and I'm sure it'll be helpful too! I'm working on re-writing the beginning of my WIP, and this should help me figure out if my current opening line sounds good.

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  2. First liners is really not a strength, but the more reason I'm really excited about this contest!

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    1. Oh good, Arlette! It should be a fun one :)

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  3. First lines are tough for me.
    You're kinds are so cute! I love Connor in his vest and tie with his curly hair, such a little man! And do you put lipstick on Mckenna sometimes or does she just have pretty lips? It's so fun for little girls to put makeup on for special occasions. I always wanted too my mom wasn't so keen

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    1. Thanks, Tonya! McKenna received lip gloss for her birthday a few weeks ago and obviously needed some for a fancy Christmas dinner ;)

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  4. Ooo! I’m excited about this contest. I was just reading the post you wrote about first liners a year or two ago. Such sweet looking kids, Stephanie! I like it when you put pictures of them on here. =)
    ~Aidyl

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    1. Thank you, Aidyl! I try to not go too crazy with photos but sometimes I can't resist :)

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  5. Your kids are seriously adorable, Stephanie! Thanks for hosting this everyone.
    :)
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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  6. I'm revising my WIP right now, and it has a bad beginning. Back to work! Thanks for hosting this contest, and as always, Stephanie, your kids are adorable.

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    1. Thanks, Katia! I'm doing revisions now too. Sigh.

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  7. Such cute kids :) I haven't exactly the best first line and this sounds like a really fun contest and great way to improve on my first line :P Thank you and thanks to the judges as well! Sierra
    Keep growing beautiful!

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  8. This contest sounds fun! I'm revising the beginning of my story at the moment, so this should be good motivation :)

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  10. Wow, thanks for this great competition! I just entered now- it's great fun coming up with first lines! Your kids are seriously adorable.

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    1. Thank you, Tierney. Which is a seriously cool name :)

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    2. Thanks Stephanie! My name is Gaelic. I've always liked the name Stephanie. I think it would be a cool name for a story character.

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  11. Hm, I just noticed I've been entering contests as Sarah Olson, but I used to enter as Sarah O., so Sarah O. is the name on the Writing Challenge winners page...just letting you know I'm the same person xD

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    1. Thanks for letting me know, Sarah! It's a new year, so it all starts over anyway :)

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  12. Loved this compilation of first lines! Although my favorite shall forever be: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in need of a wife." (Pride and Prejudice)

    This is a fabulous contest, too! Question: may we submit first lines that have been entered/placed in previous contests?

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    1. Oh, that IS a good one :) Always makes me want to reread the book...

      And yes, you may. Good question!

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  13. Love lines are killers...er, I mean, great! I love a good, hooky first line when I'm reading. Like the one from UNWIND (by Neal Shusterman): “There are places you can go,” Ariana tells him, “and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen.”

    So 3 entries! Wow! I've got work to do...

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  14. What a great contest! My current book has more of a strong opening situation than a strong sentence, which I need to fix. I read a lot of books with great beginnings, and Pride and Prejudice definitely has a good one. Also, I'm no longer Katie, because I got a blog, so please visit if you ever a few minutes free. Now, off to write my entries!

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  15. I'm going to enter this contest, I think! This'll be awesome. Looking forward to it!

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  16. What a fun contest, Stephanie. I'll pass the word along.

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  17. Ooh, this contest looks fun! I haven't actually thought much about my first line, so I guess this is a good way to come up with them! Rick Riordan from the Percy Jackson series is really good with first lines. He always places his characters in the most bizarre situations.

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  18. Woohoo! I'm excited about this contest! First lines don't come easy to me, so I'm really looking forward to some input. :D

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  19. When does the contest end? And when do you stop taking submissions?

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    1. Tuesday, January 8th is the answer to both.

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  20. First lines are tough... A lot of times I can think of a line but not a story or the other way around. Gonna have to work on that... :)
    McKenna looks like you, from what I've seen in the pictures! :)

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  21. Goodness me, why can't I have such great ideas when I'm actaully writing my book? Lol.

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  22. Hey, Stephanie. I submitted two forms under my name- Victoria Tucker- but I accidentally pressed enter before I could add the rest of the email address to the second form. Is there a way to correct that?

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    1. Rats. I think I've messed up one of the entrees because I wasn't sure if I could say who was saying the sentence. I got confused about the one word exemption. :P

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    2. Lol, Victoria. No problem. I'll sort out the email thing, and I'll contact you about the one you think you messed up :)

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  23. From Amo Libros:
    YOUR KIDS ARE SO CUTE!
    Thanks so much for this contest, Mrs. Morrill. Thanks to you too, judges! I can't wait for feed back!
    I'm so excited about this new year. I don't usually enter the GTW contests because I can never come up with anything, but I've decided to try to enter every contest this year, and see if it won't stretch my writing muscles a little. Thanks so much for doing this, for having such fun contests in a safe and comfortable environment. GTW just really makes my day!

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    1. Amo, we feel honored to help with writing muscle stretches :) I'm glad you're joining in!

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  24. Hello! Just wanted to say that this blog is amazing, and that I really appreciate all of the help I was able to receive here. I entered the contest, and good luck to everyone else who did too!
    :) xox

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  25. This contest is super exciting. I just got directed to this website and I absolutely love it. I can't wait for feedback.

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