Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

SUFLC Update

My thoughts upon waking up this morning: "Gee, I wonder how the Stupendously Ultimate First Line Challenge is going, let me open up..... Holy Spicoli!!"

Needless to say, I have already started shying away from the monumental task of whittling down the entries into a list of finalists and have enlisted the help of thrice-published author Anne Dayton of Good Girl Lit, who doubles as a book editor and thus knows a thing or two (or a gazillion) about first lines.

Anne and I will take a look at all of the entries on Wednesday evening (the cutoff time will be earlier because Anne is on the East Coast) and come up with a list of finalists. Voting will commence on Thursday, hopefully with a handy-dandy electronic voting thingie, and you will also have the opportunity to exercise the power of the people with the ability to write in votes in the comments section.

Some have already expressed concern about voting fraud (in America?? No!!), and to alleviate these concerns I have enlisted the same accounting firm who tabulates the votes for the Oscars to ensure that there are no irregularities, and I have authorized the full use of tasers to enforce the rules. (Actually we're going to use the honor system with some additional safeguards.)

Keep on entering the SUFLC if you haven't already, and I hope you're enjoying reading the entries as much as I am.






76 comments:

David said...

No one could have predicted you'd be swamped! :)

Nathan Bransford said...

You called it! I was thinking maybe 150.

Words In Words Out said...

Oh sweetie. Don't you know us at ALL?! :D

Conduit said...

Didn't you learn anything from Miss Snark's last Crap-o-meter? Opening an agent blog up to us desperate writers is like covering yourself head-to-foot in roast beef before walking into a barn full of starving Pit Bull Terriers and shouting "Come and get it!"

Seriously, though, it's been a fun exercise and thanks for taking the time to let us play.

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, you should have asked Miss Snark about floods and inundations.

It's an interesting experience for us readers as well. When I read up on 100something entries last night, I noticed I tended to skim the long sentences with several commas after a while.

Not fair, I admit, but is it any different for slush pile readers?

Troy Masters said...

"It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times".

-One of Mr. Burns's 1000 monkeys.

With so many entries, I can't help thinking of the infinite monkey theorem...somebody has to strike gold with at least one sentence.

Anonymous said...

Well, you brought this on yourself, Nathan.

But we're all glad you did.

Thanks in advance for all the extra work you're going to have to put into this.

David said...

conduit,

The first paragraph of your comment would make a wonderful opening line.

Anonymous said...

And by the way. I don't think you get enough credit for your sense of humor, which is the best part about this blog.

Scott said...

So, would a view into your SUFLC selection process provide us with insight about your query selection/rejection process?

Nathan Bransford said...

Scott-

I definitely think it provides a fairly good sense of what my inbox looks like -- the quality of these first-line submissions on average is slightly higher, but overall it's a pretty good barometer.

I don't ultimately know if the selections Anne and I make will be illuminating into the agent thought-process, but we shall see I suppose.

melanie avila said...

Nathan -

Thanks again for this opportunity. Like conduit said, you asked for it! Especially since you recently said you notice the queries from people who've posted on your blog. I'm only following instructions.

original bran fan said...

Perhaps next time there should be a number cut-off as well as a time cut-off. Perhaps "first 100 people" or something.

(You notice how I cleverly assumed there would be a next time?)

mkcbunny said...

Thanks for running the contest.

Marti said...

You are a brave soul, Nathan. I remember the Snark Wars.
:-)

getitwritten_guy said...

While taking a break from my WIP I looked in on the blog this morning. I was amazed at the level of response that you got on this.

I've read a few of the entries and I don't envy your position in having to decide on a winner. Shying away from the task as you mention in your post is understandable.

Good luck.

P.S.: To get through this, just remember to apply compassion for all us hopefuls out here, a good sense of humor, and liberal amounts of coffee :-)

Mr Bear said...

Perhaps entries of more than two sentences should be disqualified?

And some folks have entered more times than is in good taste. How 'bout cutting them off at 3 entries?

David de Beer said...

ah, it's all in good fun, and I'm finding this very interesting.

I say let the multiple entries stand. But, heh, I don't have to read and sort them later:)

Anonymous said...

methinks anne's line will make it to the finalists now...

:o)

Nathan Bransford said...

Haha-- forgot to mention that Anne will forego her inevitable spot in the finals in order to judge the contest. That's some sacrifice there. Also she really does want an oil change.

Precie said...

150?! Bhahahahaha! It's the Internet. :)

Thanks for running this, NB! It's a blast!

Katie said...

Know what I noticed? How VERY many of these first lines reveal that the hero is already dead. It kind of gets old after the sixtieth (or something like that) entry, even if the line is otherwise fantastic.

Is this, also, I wonder, indicitive of your slush pile? Hmmmm...

Michelle Moran said...

Good luck, Nathan!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

handy-dandy electronic voting thingie

I dunno, Nathan. That sounds pretty technical...you sure we can figure it out?

Josephine Damian said...

If my man Conduit doesn't make it into the finals, I'm taking advantage of the write in campaign and voting for him.

Nathan, I'm in an online workshop right now and we had to do the same exercise: rate first lines.

We did it by assigning a 1-5 value to each opening line, with 5 being the best. I applied the same technique to my list from this contest, and it was a big help in narrowing down my top picks, with Conduit still sittin' pretty a top the heap of entries!

Conduit in 2007! Vote early! Vote often!

Hey, can I be "Conduit Girl" in his youtube campaign video?

Miss Snark said...

Hahahahahahhah!!!!!

DeadlyAccurate said...

If my man Conduit doesn't make it into the finals, I'm taking advantage of the write in campaign and voting for him.

That's the way I felt about lafreya's first entry. I really wanted to know the answer to the question posed.

David said...

Miss Snark!

She alive! She's aliiiiiiiiive!

(Crash of thunder.)

Conduit said...

The spirit of long gone Empress, Miss Snark, arrives to taunt her successor, Prince Bransford, for the folly of his ways.

Is it just me, or is there something terribly Shakespearean about that?

To Josephine - If there was such a video, yes, of course you could be "Conduit Girl". Thanks for making me blush!

Nathan Bransford said...

Conduit-

You'd think the apprentice would have learned the lessons of the master, but I've always been a rebellious sort. I'm honored, though, that Miss Snark stopped by to watch me repeat the mistakes of history.

Marti said...

All hail! Miss Snark has made a rare public appearance!

jjdebenedictis said...

I wanna be Conduit's go-go girl too.

*shi-bop, shi-bop*

Other Lisa said...

Lots of already dead people but no evil albinos.

I for one am disappointed.

Heather Wardell said...

Some people have stretched the "first line" out into really a first paragraph. Will the tasers be applied to these people? (And if so, maybe I could help? I've never used a taser... but it's a life goal...)

Spartezda said...

Run in terror, mortals, for the Pink Taser Brigade approaches!

A Paperback Writer said...

OH MY HECK!
We actually have been graced by the SNARK MARK!
The poodle tattoos on our arms will now burn until we gather to meet with Our Lady of Snarkiness again. She has returned from the great beyond.

Okay, I'll stop now.
Still, didn't the last crapometer have over 700 entries? Really, Nathan, the 293 posts for this contest (as I type) sounds like small change after Snarkdom.
However, as long as we can be free of pregnant chad in the voting here, I will be satisfied.

Nathan Bransford said...

a paperback writer-

That is an A+ backhanded compliment. lol.

Josephine Damian said...

Alert the media! Miss Snark is back! Please, I beg you! Come to my nit wit crit group and shoot them with the proverbial clue gun!

Deadlyaccurate: I too am a big lafreya fan. Both of her entries were winners, but Conduit is King.

Me and jjdebenedictis are gonna put on our short shorts and shake our groove thangs so that Conduit makes it into the finals.

Other Lisa: My fourth entry was gonna be: The evil albino lay at the bottom of the jelly tank while bubbles from his last breath broke the water's calm surface.

But I didn't wanna push the entry number to a Church Lady level so I refrained. :-)

Dave Wood said...

Urp! Now I feel bad about giving you two entries. If you're mad enough to ever do this again, maybe you should limit it to one entry per aspirant? Give us a taste of our own medicine and make us chose *the* best of our best.

Seriously, Nathan, thanks for the blog. It's ton of fun.

Lupina said...

Enjoying Miss Snark's evident twinge of masochistic nostalgia...much like seeing a freed gladiator return to witness her successor's bloodying by the barbarian horde. The sense of continuity is strangely comforting, too.

Chumplet said...

Hey, if the rules can change on a whim, cut 'em off now. I say that because I already entered (laughs evilly).

Miss Snark! Clooney Alert! Toronto! Whoooo!

Ello said...

Miss Snark! A Miss Snark sighting! She's alive and laughing at poor Nathan for unleashing the floodgates! I'm betting you reach over 400 by tomorrow morning - possibly even 500 by the end? Unless people start feeling sorry for you...You want I should make them stop (knuckles cracking...)?


But seriously, thanks for doing this. It's been great fun reading all of these.

Church Lady said...

Hi Josephine,
I read these words "Keep on entering the SUFLC" and saw little else. It was almost like Miss Snark saying "Enter as often as you like in the Crapometer."

Anyway, sorry to all....

Already apologized to Nathan, and offered to remove as many entries as Nathan wants. I think I have 5 in total, and the one about the kitten was a joke.

This is such a great contest. Best of luck to everyone!
Cheers,

JaxPop said...

Hey Church Lady - Chill out!!! You always offer good comments - so ya got a bit carried away SO WHAT!! No apologies!!! It's just cool that everyone is so into it - heck, I'm jealous. I might just have to put the laptop & printer away forever based on the competition that I'm seein'. Glad I don't have to choose.

Miri said...

Hail Snarkmeister! -salute-

Thanks so much for the wonderful blog, Mr. Bransford--it's hilarious, it's informative, and it comes with its own homeboy phone. Doesn't get much better than that.

Be careful that you don't become one of those unliving entrants you mentioned, though. With this kind of inundation...wowza.

Danette Haworth said...

Unbelievable response! Can't wait for the showdown!

A Paperback Writer said...

Sorry, Nathan. I teach junior high. Sometimes I just can't help myself. sigh.
I need one of those tee shirts that says, "tact is for people with no sense of sarcasm."
(Look, I get excited about it when I get over 10 comments for a post on my blog.)

A Paperback Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Words In Words Out said...

Other Lisa,
Your comment doubles as the best first line EVER!!!!!!!!!! Gotta give it when it's due... ;)

Other Lisa said...

Aww, thanks, Words! But isn't it two lines?

Bernita said...

Over 360 entries now and almost ALL very, disgustingly, GOOD!

(why did I bother?)

Anne Dayton said...

Hey Nathan? I forgot to mention I have this... thing tonight. Yeah. Um, sorry about that. But this contest is gong to be really fun to judge, so I'm sure you'll do fine on your own. Have fun!

Scoot said...

Hehe

Precie said...

Hee hee! Anne's post is the cherry on this Snarkalicious sundae!

NB--I hope you're still having fun.

Dag said...

I stood partially shadowed behind a concrete pillar, feeling like a villain on a bad television program.

Josephine Damian said...

Ooooh, Church Lady, you had me at hello. Your first first line is among my top picks!

Gabriele C. said...

I'm surprised how many people posted half their first chapters. I'm tempted to add the first paragraphs to my first sentences since the latter are so very short. How can 5 words compete with all those words? *grin*

Precie said...

Should we start placing bets on what the final SUFLC entry count will be?

I say: 468.

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Nathan,

When I first read your "SUFLC update" I thought, "How many could there be?"

Bless your heart...the first liners are coming out from under their keyboards. I think it's time to "haphazardly" introduce new rules!!

Thanks for doing this, Nathan,
Jennifer

pamela h said...

Can't wait to see the finalists. This has made me rethink my first line, which is definitely a good thing...

dramabird said...

Because the grand prize of a partial manuscript critique is so valuable for someone seeking representation/publication, it would seem a shame for it to go unused if the first-line winner doesn't need it or can't yet use it (if the line is stand-alone, if it's part of a preliminary WIP that isn't ready for critiquing, etc.).

If that's the case, I humbly inquire if there is any chance the critique could be passed on to the nearest runner-up who could use it? With the first-place winner still earning their much-deserved "equally stupendously ultimate non-cash prize," of course.

What say you, our literary liege? Thank you for presenting this opportunity for all of us!

David said...

precie,

Nifty idea! I say 570.

Is there a prize for coming closest?

sruble said...

I think it's interesting that a great first line is buried at the end of some of the longer posts. It's like having too much backstory in the first chapter - sometimes you just have to cut those lines you like and get to what's best for the story.

This is great fun for us Nathan - hope you aren't too overwhelmed with the volume of first lines!

Gabriele C. said...

sruble, I think you have a good point there. Some of these are examples of How To Deal With Backstory In One Short Paragraph, and then move on.

Hm, maybe Nathan could write a post about How Not To Do First Lines/Paragraphs?

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

Have you decided how many finalists you will choose? 10? 20? Any idea?

Katie said...

Almost to 400!!!

And Miss Snark!!!

Nathan... you're not sticking to the hand-write-in-your-vote plan, are you? Doesn't that mean you'd have to read and hand-count the hundreds (if not thousands) of votes that will come in? Ugh!

Otherwise... I finally went back through the whole huge list and copied off every one I loved. There were eight. :-) And it IS eye-opening. I like those that give a hint of the person's personality a hint of the story's direction, and a little something intriguing... and that's a LOT to fit into one sentence!

My ultimate favorite so far is DeadlyAccurate's two-line offering. I've read it seven times and it's still funny and intriguing. I think wolf's line about it raining 14.3% of the time is pretty good too... it's like a complete character sketch in one sentence!

DeadlyAccurate said...

Thank you so much, katie! You've made my day.

David said...

I have the impression that some of the first lines aren't actually the first lines of anything. Rather, they've been submitted as lines that would be kinda neat as the first lines of something, if that something existed.

Which seems rather pointless. But maybe I misjudge.

Katie said...

Well... my "first line" isn't a first line, but it does have a 90,000 word book behind it. It's half-way through the fourth chapter, though. I'm working on edits, and some of my critiquers said it would make a fabulous first line, so I figured here's a good place to test that! :-)

David said...

katie,

That makes perfect sense to me. What I'm puzzled by is the comments that give me the impression the commenters just made up what could be a first line, in order to enter something into the contest. In other words, they're not the first lines -- or any lines -- of something larger.

Nathan Bransford said...

David-

The guidelines state that these may be from WIPs or first lines that people made up for the purpose of the SUFLC, so all are welcome!

JaxPop said...

Hey Nathan - Where's today's post??? It's 5:30 here in hot sunny Florida - so 2:30 your time. Don't try claiming to be too busy!!! Get on the schtick!!!

Nathan Bransford said...

jaxpop-

Did today's post not make it down to Florida?? I swear I posted SUFLC Update #2 today.

David said...

Oops. Okay, I missed that part somehow.

wolf said...

Thanks, Katie! I'm glad somebody liked it. It's actually part of a WIP, but not one ready for critique. However, I do have another (finished) manuscript (surprise, surprise, eh?) that's ready for critique, should Prince Bransford like my line.

weight loss said...

Very funny :)

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