Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Fricassee

You know, the comments on yesterday's blog post are worthy of a post of their own. If you haven't read them, you're missing out!

Thanks for sharing your hearts and your journeys, folks.

Aside from that example of your wonderfulness, will you give me some final thoughts on our first-ever First Line Grabber?  Did the guest agents' feedback line up with your own opinion on the excerpts?  In general, did the 500 words of our winning entries live up to your expectations of their first lines?

We'll definitely do this again--but when we do, is there anything you'd do differently?

And here's my chance to publicly thank Jodi Meadows and All the Gracious Agents who offered their time and expertise.  On behalf of everyone here--you are appreciated!

Next week we'll have a nice in-house crit--it's been a while.  In the meantime, happy weekend!


  1. It's terrifying under any circumstances to have your work picked apart. As one of the FLG finalists, I found it useful in many ways and will use the feedback to revise my opening.

    It also served to reinforce the idea, though, that finding representation is a crapshoot because not every agent agrees one what works and what doesn't.

    Thanks to you, Jodi Meadows, and the agents.

  2. I think it was fascinating. It's so rare to get a peek at how agents actually think about what lands in their inbox. The fact that some of the agents were so (ahem)...straightforward, was actually quite interesting. I'm not sure I would have been as harsh as some of them were, but it seems they have to be extremely critical just to deal with the sheer volume of queries they get.

    So yes, very useful and I'd love to see one of these contests again. As for anything different, it would just be nice to have a bit more warning ahead of time about when it starts.

    Also, though I didn't join in the chorus yesterday, I agree, this is an unusually warm and supportive community. But then again the crabby, selfish ones are keeping to themselves...

    Thank you authoress for keeping all this interesting.

  3. I loved First Line Grabber! I was one of the five winners -- and while being able to submit my first 500 words for public critique seemed like a dubious prize at first, I'm amazed at how much valuable feedback I received. Mine is still a WIP, and I'm glad that the critiquers were so nitpicky with my excerpt, because I try to go over my own work in the same way. What a great opportunity to get feedback from both writers and agents. I'll probably print out the comments I received and look over them as I continue to revise.

    Critiquing for FLG was fun, too, especially during Round 1; I enjoyed reacting to each line and recording those initial thoughts. A quick process, but an illuminating one.

    Thanks again!

  4. I loved the First Line Grabber. I'm still kicking myself for not getting to the computer fast enough that morning to enter. *sniff* My kitchen was clean that day, though.

    Most of my comments aligned with the agents. It's interesting to see what consistently sticks out for other people. I learn so much from critique sessions like this. It opens my eyes to things I should watch for in my own work.

    Thank you for hosting it and thanks to Jodi Meadows and the agents.

  5. I love anything that involves an agent's critique. The other contests are great, but for someone like me, still working on their ms, when an agent request some pieces and not others, I'm left wondering what made this better than that. An agent critique was wonderfully informative.

  6. Hi folks: I just wanted to let you know (particularly the contributors) that I added my two cents this morning (unexpected CRAZY week made me late--many apologies).

    One word on the straightforwardness of the critiques: I feel when doing these, whether it's a Secret Agent kind of thing or this one, that giving writers the real insight into the way I think upon reading an excerpt is pretty valuable. I'm busy but interested; always looking for something wonderful but very quick to discard if something isn't working for me simply because of my volume of work. And if a tone is inconsistent, or the language too flowery or overwrought, I will not continue. The great thing is that while I may not like, say, descriptions of weather, there are a gazillion agents who don't mind it at all--or don't care about it. You want to be represented by someone who is simpatico with your story, your style, your genre; hell, your personality. There are enough of us around that you don't (and we don't) need to try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    Hope this helps, and good luck to all!


  7. It was a great idea and I loved the chance to read 500 word excerpts. But, I think we need to get there in a different way. Posting one line is not enough to eliminate (nor to advance) an entry. As we saw in the contest, what comes after could totally change what we think in our mind. So, there needs to be more of a valid progression.

    I suggest something like the first 50 words - then a certain number advance from that based on the old YES/NO to 100 words and then based on that we can get to the 500 word excerpts etc. In order for the contest to be valid - you want to put forth the best 5 excerpts etc and I think one line is not enough to base that on. Makes it just a crapshoot.

    On another note, this is a great change because here is the thing..people are voting so it gives a sense of popular appeal - as in I would read this, I wouldn't etc. That's invaluable. I think we forget the reader is the most important cog in this whole wheel - not the writer, not the agent and not the publisher. The Reader. That's why this ia great. I find it comical in other contests - and even in Secret Agent sometime - when everyone likes/loves the excerpt except the agent. And the funny thing is that it is the readers who need to like it - i.e. what sells. I think even agents forget that sometime. They are asking themselves 'do I like this?' when they should be asking themselves 'do readers like this?'

    The best thing about this grabber contest is the variety of eyes....too often one agent just brings one POV and that is not necessarily a good indicator of a work's value. As someone above indicated, we see agents agreeing and disagreeing so again query widely becase what one agent hates another one may fall in love with.

    Anyway, you do a great job here and it really stands out in the crowded blogosphere.

  8. I think first line contests are great. How many books get put back on the shelf after only one line.

    So yeah, there were some hiccups with the second line. That's how we learn. Love that agents and editors take the time to scour the blog and participate. The exposure is enormous and I, for one, am grateful! Thanks Authoress and her secret/not-so-secret folks.

  9. I want to add another comment. I totally disagree that books get put back after one line...or even one page - unless that page is so bad that an odor is eminating from that section of the bookstore. I hear this all the time but to me it is not true and it is a pet peeve.

    When browsing through books - at least me - this is how I do it. First thing is the section of the bookstore - so if I am looking for mystery then that's where I am, YA, adult literary - whatever. So, I already know the genre. Second, the title and cover art (assuming its not a famous author) will propel me to pick up a book from that section. Then, I will look at the backcover - I will get a brief description of the entire story - the MC, the conflict, the stakes etc...and if I like THAT, then I will say - hmmm maybe this is something I want to then I might flip and read a page but more likely I will take the book home. And, once invested, I will give it at least a chapter. After that, it's anyone's guess.

    BUt the idea that people are blindly and randomly picking up books and - even more amazingly - starting to read them with NO knowledge of ANYTHING is as preposterous as saying when we go to the movies we walk into a theater at random. It is just not the way it mostly works. I think we need to sell books that way, and approach writing them that way. Any reader, (okay 90%) of them will be armed with a basic synopsis (thumbnail) the genre, etc before they even begin reading. When we crit without those parameters I think we forget that and so even in the SA 250 contests people demand a lot of info that would be available had they a logline or a thumbnail synopsis. Just saying.

  10. I found this FLG to be really interesting. All the entries hooked readers with the first line, the first two, the first paragraph, which is NOT easy to do. That takes a lot of hard work and just the right combination of words. It shows how much attention we all spend on trying to get an agent's attention right from the beginning.

    But the fact that many of the entries didn't live up to those openings showed us that we need to make sure to carry that steam throughout. An agent can be hooked in the first paragraph and hit delete after the next few sentences.

  11. I was introduced to the lovely Authoress through the first line contest, and I have to say that it is a new way to look at my manuscript. But...more than anything it was so fun! It was exciting to see how the agents viewed the manuscripts, and then to compare it to my own view. I have to say the first line grabber contest hooked me to this awesome blog! Thank you!

  12. I've found every stage of the FLG to be fascinating. Thanks, Authoress and all the others who contributed. I hope you'll do it again.

  13. I thought this was brilliant! Hoping to get my newest WIP into the next contest.