Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Finalists!! (As Introduced by Donald Draper)


Hello. I'm Donald Draper, partner at Sterling Cooper, America's leading independent advertising firm, and subject of the hit television show Mad Men. You can call me Don once we've had a few martinis.

You may know me for my good looks and penetrating yet soulful facial expressions, as demonstrated by this picture. You may also know me for my ability to mesmerize executives with ruminations on the American Dream during smoke-filled advertising pitch sessions. They usually buy it. And if they don't buy it we send them to the gentlemen's club until they'll buy anything.

Nathan asked me to help him judge this contest. I must say, being from the ad world has taught me a few things over the years. For instance, don't let a broad get hysterical. And bad news should be taken sitting down, with a stiff drink in your hand. Thanks. I'll have another.

As an ad man, I was reading these paragraphs for clues. Clues on whether someone has a novel that I can sell. Because selling is the thing. People want to be eased into a novel. They don't want to be throttled by first paragraphs. They want the scene to be set and the characters revealed. They want subtlety, and proper word choice, grammar, sentence structure, and seamless readability. Clues that the rest of the package is a sure thing.

Let's talk about voice. I'm a man of few words. Too much chattiness wears me down, especially at the dinner table, where talking is strictly forbidden. If you look closely at your favorite novels, they are not that chatty. Just a hint goes a long way. Like paprika.

I have chosen six finalists, which are coincidentally but conveniently spread among several different genres. Please vote on your favorite in the comments section of this post. You will have until Monday at 4pm Pacific to vote, and anonymous votes will not be counted.

And look. I like to give everyone a fair shake. No e-mails to 10,000 of your closest friends asking them to vote for you, and no open campaigning on the internet.

Here are your finalists:


Natalie:
According to my father, the first rule of ninjutsu is KISS: keep it simple, stupid. Of course, he’s says it all ninja-like, but that’s the gist. If you can walk down the street in normal clothes, there’s no need for black garb and grappling hooks. If you can kill a dude in two moves, don’t waste your time with three. And that’s why we run a karate school for all those little kids who get beat up at school—two ninjas hiding in the most obvious place, and the last spot anyone looks.


Morgan:
The world is different now. What once was a time of wealth and security now is an unforgiveable Thunderdome world without heroes. I was born into this world like no other, a singular blue and brown eyed abnormality without equal—a Tetragametic Chimera with Heterochromia eyes. My mother had carried two fertilized eggs that should have become fraternal twins, one twin with blue eyes and the other with brown but our separate cells fused together inside her womb. Instead of the eggs connecting as one immediately, creating the more common Tetragametic Chimera anomaly, they formed independent of each other for the first seven days of gestation and then bonded into that rarest of rare miracle. It took God seven days to create the world and it took seven days to create what I am—two independent savant minds born inside one body, a single being with two completely different sets of DNA, one eye brown and the other eye blue—a twin inside a twin.


Steve Axelrod:
On a bright humid morning in June, a sixteen year old girl named Deborah Garrison stepped off the boat from Hyannis, walked ahead of her mother down into the crowded summer streets and set everything in motion. She didn’t seem special; just one more pretty girl on a summer island crowded with them. And she didn’t actually do anything; nothing that happened later was her fault. The simple, irreducible fact of her presence was enough. Even years later, the consequences and implications of Debbie’s arrival seem bizarre and implausible, far too much to balance on those thin sunburned shoulders. It was like setting off an avalanche with a sigh.


MA:
The blood pooling under the dead man’s back reminded Nicholas Avery of butterfly wings. It spread from the twin wounds, sweeping to each side in graceful arcs that sparkled beneath the kitchen lights.


Alexa:
If the funeral were taking place in one of my Mom’s novels then it would be winter and it would be raining. The sky would be overcast and there would be the distant rumble of thunder as the casket was lowered into the ground. The weather can’t always match the occasion though. Today the sky was a blinding blue and in the manicured graveyard there was no escape from the sun. I could feel my black dress growing damp and my feet, enclosed in unaccustomed heels, expanding by the second. I glanced at my Mom, standing ramrod straight beside me, dressed in defiant yellow and movie star sunglasses. Despite makeup her face was pale. Her bloodless lips were clamped together in the expression she had worn for the last two days, ever since she had walked into our newly rented apartment and announced, “Pack everything up, we’re going home, your Grandfather died.”


Chris:
My heliophobia support group met in an old schoolhouse whose main doors had been welded shut and painted blue. You entered around back, up the Z-shaped wheelchair ramp. I’d been attending for years and knew every hall and every stairwell in that place, even saw the belfry once, having shimmied up a ladder hidden in the supply closet. Nothing up there but dust and bird shit and some failed eggs, not even a bell. Just wooden slats through which the sun broke like streaky clown tears. Which didn’t scare me. It’s not that any of us feared the sun, it wasn’t that simple. We simply loathed its intentions. We had already betrayed its destiny and, like everything else in our lives, it was born just to expire.


Congratulations to the finalists. Please e-mail Nathan to discuss your prize.

Have a good weekend. I'm going for a drive in my Studebaker. It should be lovely.






561 comments:

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Future OB/GYN said...

Yay! Finalists!
My vote goes to Alexa.

Anonymous said...

I don't care for any of these. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

God, I love me some Don Draper. Nathan, this just confirms that you are the coolest.

If Don and Nathan had a drinking contest, who would win?

bflogal said...

I like Natalie's. There's humor in the informal tone that suggests I might enjoy the book.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I must agree, I don't like any of them so I'm not voting.

Bill said...

I have to say I disagree with the sharp looking man in the suit. I need a story to hit me over the head right outta the gate, so, my vote's going to MA. That's got KAPOW!


Thanks for the contest Nathan. It's been fun.

Renee Sweet said...

Thanks for the contest and congrats to the finalists. Chris gets my vote.

Cass said...

Thanks for the contest Nathan. My vote goes to Alexa!

yvettesgonefishing said...

I am voting for Steve Axelrod. :)

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

I vote for MA

Congratulations Finalists!

Zoe Winters said...

Chris, definitely! Any book that starts: My heliophobia support group... is bound to be made of win.

Amara said...

Steve Axelrod's, especially (and mainly) for the last simile. I'm a sucker for a good simile.

Congrats, finalists!

JAMRyan said...

I'm voting for Morgan. Cool idea.

Steve Axelrod's was a close runner up. Lovely writing.

Congrats to all the finalists and thanks to Nathan!

Ana Cristina said...

My vote goes to Steve Axelrod. That's one hell of an opening paragraph. I'd buy that book!

Constantine K said...

Natalie. I like the tone.

7-iron said...

Amara, I think it was a nice simile... (and not to criticize Steve) but why mention an avalanche when the setting, detail and characterization scream Summer, Hot, Sunburn?

seems contradictory regardless of it's likeness to the situation.

nomadshan said...

Steve Axelrod, please.

tiana said...

I like MA

7-iron said...

that was an apostrophe catastrophe, and I'm sorry.

Windsong said...

I vote for Alexa.

Thanks for running the contest. It was fun. :)

dara said...

I like Natalie's because of the humor.

The rest (besides MA'S) are a bit on the long side for a first paragraph, but that's just me :P

Jennifer Hendren said...

Congratulations, everyone!

My vote goes to Natalie -- sounds like a fun book!

Marilyn Peake said...

Congratulations to all the Finalists! I vote for Chris's piece about the "heliophobia support group". I read that entry soon after it was posted and it blew me away.

(I wish that I could vote for two entries because I also liked Morgan's. I would definitely buy both Chris's and Morgan's books if I read their first paragraphs in a bookstore.)

Jamey Stegmaier said...

I'll vote for Chris.

Ann Victor said...

Oh dear! They're all so good. Well done to the finalists - it's VERY hard to choose as I like all of them!

Choices! Choices! Do I have to choose just one? Hmmm. If I'm forced to choose just one, my vote would go to:

CHRIS (it is quirky and intriguing and easy to read)

Can I choose Donald Draper as well? :)

Brianna said...

My vote goes to Morgan. LOVE the last sentence.

Meg said...

Steve Axelrod gets my vote. I'm immediately right there and compelled to read on.

Congrats to all!

Meg

Amy said...

MA, please :)

Fred said...

Steve Axelrod. Where can I get this book?

Stacey said...

Congrats to the finalists.

I vote for Steve Axelrod. Not only did the paragraph make me want to find out more, but that is just a good name for an author!

Good luck!

Amber said...

I have to go with Natalie. I like the intrigue at the end, and the snappy humor.
Amber

Just_Me said...

I vote MA!!!!

quixotic said...

my vote is for Natalie

Anna Swenson said...

Steve Axelrod!

Love your blog, Mr. Bransford.

veschwab said...

I'm going with MA.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I guess some people like one thing, and some others like another. Funny that we get this outlook here and I got the opposite from the other website by Harper. I think I'll go with what I like. Not what everyone else is telling me. My gut seems to be right on...Being true to yourself I think here is key.

Just starting out and finding my way... Jen

philologia said...

I like them all, but Natalie takes the cake for me.

MA is a close second.

If anybody wants to let me read their books, email me! Veggie1@gmail.com, and I need some good reading material over break.

Sasha said...

I vote for Alexa. Her paragraph flowed easily and brought me completely into the story's world.

I was intrigued by Natalie's, though, too. :)

Anonymous said...
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House 6 said...

I like the opening MA has. It catches my attention. I want to read more.

Nathan Bransford said...

Enough anonymous snarking. I like to think of this as a supportive writing community.

You're a mean one..... Mr. Grinch. You have terrrmites in your smile!

RJM said...

Natalie, for catching the attention of normal human beings. You side-swipe age, education, and social class to deliver a chop the pleasure nerve.

Plus, ninjas.

Adam Heine said...

I vote for Natalie. It's got a fun voice, and I have a soft spot for ninjas.

Morgan's and Chris's both made me go, "Woah, weird." In a really good way. Just in case the authors are reading through this and want more encouragement.

And what's with the Anon's showing up just to say they don't like any and aren't voting? That seems kinda vindictive.

Adam Heine said...

Oh, good, Nathan's addressing the Anon's. Thank you, Nathan!

McKoala said...

MA

Knowledge Q. Bones said...

I just want to say good job by everyone that submitted. I will probably use a few of the hooks to begin some short stories. Don't worry, they won't ever be submitted for publishing (as if they could) or claimed as my own.

My vote goes to Natalie. I want to know what happens to these little ninjas.

Walter said...

Chris

Anonymous said...

Mine goes to "talking at the table!" It's the place to gather if you are a normal person. Oh, that wasn't a choice?

Hmmm...?

Alexa then.

Good luck!

Michelle Moran said...

Congratulations to all of the finalists!!!

I am desperately torn between Alexa and Chris, but I think I'll go with Alexa simply because I'm dying to known what kind of woman wears yellow with movie-star glasses to a funeral!

However, all of the finalists did fantastic jobs!

LiteraryMouse said...

I vote for Natalie.

Been trying to go through all the entries to post my own list of favorites, but I've only gotten through 400 of them (whimper).

Nicole Lorenz said...

My vote goes to Chris.

Congrats to all the finalists!

MelissaPEA said...

My vote goes to Chris.

But I enjoyed reading the others too. So good luck to all!

:)Ash said...

Natalie.

Congrats to all the finalists! Well done!!

Lisa and Laura said...

Steve Axelrod. That last line is killer!

Kiersten said...

NATALIE.

You go, girl. Funny, smart, intriguing.

Amy said...

Congrats to the finalist!

(I realized today my chances of winning CNBC's Portfolio challenge were better than this contest.)
I vote for: NATALIE
But I also like ALEXA
Good luck!

a kelly said...

Alexa.

But I liked Steve and Natalie too.

Lula O said...

MA - I could totally picture it...and I love flutterby's.

Leis said...

I enjoyed all six almost equally and am having a hard time picking one winner.

There are two stories that I would most definitely want to read--although I believe the others would make for good reading as well, these genre and writing styles appeal to me most: I am torn between Steve and Chris's entries...

If I must pick just one, it is Steve's: I want to know how a 16-year-old girl can change everything...

Well done, congratulations to all and thank you for this scrumptious treat, Nathan!

Kasie West said...

I vote for Natalie.

Good tone, funny.

Natalie said...

Um, wow. I feel super special. Other than myself, of course, my vote goes to Alexa. Loved that one.

Anonymous said...

They come from different genres so I think this is going to come down to whether we have more YA writers, more LitFic fans, or more Thriller readers in our happy Bransford bunch :)

Great writing, all!

Christine said...

Natalie has my vote! I love ninjas!

Christine
christinewritesabook.blogspot.com

Kristin Laughtin said...

Morgan for me.

Loved the intro, btw.

David de Beer said...

My vote goes to Alexa.

Derek said...

Natalie. Love the Christopher Moore vibe and I now want to read the book.

sally apokedak said...

First you had to read all the paragraphs and now you have to count all the votes--you're a glutton for punishment.

I vote for Alexa.

And thanks much for the fun.

Other Lisa said...

Come on, everyone knows Don Draper drives a Cadillac!

Congrats to the finalists - I'll be voting tomorrow, after I've recovered from far too many margaritas.

Crystal said...

STEVE AXELROD


I was very torn between his and Morgan's. I had to go back and read two more times just to decide. Both grabbed my attention right off and now I'm irritated that I can't read more.

Miquela said...

Morgan's entry intrigued me the most, and I'd name Chris runner-up.

Nathan Oser said...

Natalie

Indrayani said...

CHRIS...

I entered too and didnt win.:(
Anyways.. the finalists are deserving..

Congrats!

Freddie Omm said...

MORGAN - brilliant Crichton-like pseudo-scientific concept, told deadpan, fun, would definitely read on to the 2nd para.

Cool contest, I'm amazed Don could turn it round so quickly!

burgy61 said...

I liked Natalie's the best, she gets my vote.

mkcbunny said...

I vote for MA.

Thanks, Nathan (and Don).

And I hope you enjoy your Studebaker weekend with a bottle of tasty bourbon. Except not those two together. Maybe drive up north, enjoy the bourbon over a pool table in a cozy coastal B&B, fall asleep on a bed you don't have to make, and THEN go for a spin.

Polenth said...

I vote for Chris. Heliophobics for the win!

Whirlochre said...

I'm with Natalie and the ninjas. Excellent.

Jovanna said...

I have to choose between Alexa and Chris... ... ... I'll go with Chris. His seemed to catch my attention more in the first sentence, even though I don't know what heliophobia is. But congratulations to all the other finalists!

Misssy M said...

I want to read most of these. it was between the krate school and the twins for me. But I'm going to plump for Morgan's pitch because it's so clever and makes me want to find out what this person is going to do and be.

So that's Morgan to win. But they are all v. good.

(and just a note to say...why are people commenting to say they don't like any...pointless)

Stephe said...

Congrats, everyone!

I remember MA's paragraph jumping out at me during the contest. So MA it is.

gypsyscarlett said...

Much congrats to all the finalists.

My vote goes to Steve.

Marina said...

I have to vote for Natalie -- she's got me dying to know why two ninjas are hiding out in plain sight. Great hook!

Adam Heine said...

Ninjas always hide in plain sight. Observe.

Cory said...

My vote goes to Natalie. It's fun and accessible.

Jenny Rappaport said...

My vote goes to Chris.

And Nathan, I'm resisting the urge to be terrible and ask to see Chris' book for myself. =)

Toni Kenyon said...

Congratulations to the finalists and to everyone who had the courage to enter.

I vote MA - an angel with crimson wings.

I haven't read all the entries, but I certainly remember this one.

Thanks for the opportunity, Nathan. (Don D, pure genius...)

Olivia said...

Six...way better than 1400, or whatever the ridiculous number turned out to be.

I was going to go with Natalie's at first (who doesn't like a good ninja story?), but after reading Morgan's, I have to vote for it.

Very unique story idea, and it caters to the workings of my sci-fi mind. I would buy that book in a heartbeat.

Sophia said...

Excellent work, finalists!

My vote goes to Natalie's entry.

BarbS. said...

Ohhh mygoodness, now that we've pumped out the bilges and sent the pairs of small, furry animals back into the wild, all I can say is,
"Congrats to the finalists!" I wasn't able to read everything because of the horrendous weather-related blackout here, so I'll trust "Mr. Draper's" sense of business and say that everyone is a winner.

Now what about that first-sentence contest???? :)

dustymuffin said...

MA please!

Mels said...

My vote: Chris.

They were all wonderful, but I chose the one I would be most likely to pick up, read, and consequently buy.

V L Smith said...

My vote is for Natalie. I like the voice.

Congrats to all!

Leatherdykeuk said...

My vote to Natalie

Yunaleska said...

Congrats to all the finalists!

My vote = MA

writtenwyrdd said...

I notice several of these have unusual and arrestingly appealing similes or metaphores. Blood like butterfly wings, sunlight like clown tears, a funeral to a book, gestation with God's creation of the world, setting off an avalance with a sigh.

These are all great, but I vote for Natalie's entry.

Kevin said...

I liked the voice in Alexa's the most. The first sentence really grabbed me...enough that I was willing to forgive a couple of other things I wasn't completely in love with in the piece. Alexa gets my vote.

Thanks again for making yourself so open to writers, Nathan. It's great to see what everybody else is writing too.

sylvia said...

Natalie. Love the ninjas!

BarbS. said...

Oh! And I was wondering--I'm sure a lot of us were wondering--how many non-finalists went back and changed their opening paragraphs. (Fuel for a separate post, perhaps?)

Chris Eldin said...

Congrats to all!

I vote for Natalie.

Elyssa Papa said...

My vote goes for Natalie . . . I loved the voice and humor. But all finalists were spectacular, and I kept waffling back and forth. The ninjas hiding in plain sight concept intrigued me.

Linda said...

Wow, these are all super. Congrats. A couple I had mentally checked off in my breeze through (ha!).

Steve Axelrod gets my vote. He sets the entire story up enviously perfectly, and like the other commenters here: the last line sucked my breath away.

Alexa comes in a very close second.

Thanks to all - I learned a lot, always do in these contests. Peace, Linda

rhubarbruby said...

I love Natalie's! Fab tone of voice and draws me in straight away.

Sandie Hudson said...

Congratulations to the final six, best of luck to you all.

BUT, my vote goes to Natalie.

Jude Hardin said...

Definitely Chris. Love the voice.

Kathleen Peacock said...

Great job guys!

My vote goes to Alexa.

Anonymous said...

I vote Chris. I liked the description and the idea of a community we haven't seen yet, and the writing, which seemed weird, but not *too* weird.

I also liked Steve's writing, but I got the feeling that the girl in the story was an object, not a subject, which I dislike. Of course, we only got to see the first paragraph, so I could be *totally* wrong about that.

Jessica said...

I vote for Chris. I actually noticed this entry among the hundreds, so I'm sticking with my gut. Great job!

BJ said...

MA

Emily Ruth said...

I was torn between MA and Alexa, buttt...
I'm going with MA just because I think first paragraphs should be short and catchy, and none of the others really *jumped* out, though they were ALL very excellently written!
Good job selecting the finalists!

LeDome said...

Congratulations, everyone.

I vote for Chris.

Boudica said...

All very good. I vote for Chris.

Parker Haynes said...

Congratulations to everyone... the finalists, the other thousand plus who put their work out for scrutiny, and to Nathan and Donald for the God-knows-how-many hours (and bottles of Maker's Mark) they put into this contest.

The comments/votes so far seem to verify the subjectivity of readers. We all have our preferences of what we choose to read, or not. Votes appear to flow along the lines of genre preferences.

I find the writing in all the finalists' entries excellent, but my vote is a tie between Morgan and Alexa. Both first paragraphs beg for a second, and a third, and... Heck, the whole book!

Thanks to all for participating!

Lori Van Hoesen said...

What a great lesson in writing first Paragraphs--I'm off to work on my own.

My vote goes to Axelrod. An avalanche with a sigh? My oh my...

Jen-GreenInkEdits said...

Totally Natalie. Despite the typo, which for me is hard because I'm an anal proofreader. But that's the only one that struck me as original and made me want to read the rest of the book.

Heather Harper said...

Morgan, because I'm intrigued by the premise.

Christy said...

My vote goes to Natalie.

mary beth said...

Wow, I liked all of them. I vote for Morgan, mainly because hers/his would have been the story I wanted most to read, but wow, they were all good. Best ofpp luck to all the writers in selling these books.

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Amanda said...

I'm vote's going to Natalie. She really grabbed my attention.

Sara Best said...

Congratulations you guys. I'm so jealous ;)

My vote goes to Alexa. If I was standing in the book store reading first pages, that's the one I'd take to the cash register.

GlassQuill said...

I vote for Natalie, please.

clindsay said...

Can I vote for two? I can't decide between Natalie and Morgan. I love them both.

Anonymous said...
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Ashley D. said...

I voted for Alexa!

I like how when reading it, a very vivid, color picture was painted in my mind.

congratulations to the finalists!

JaneyV said...

Ninja Natalie! All the way.

Vicky said...

Of these six choices, I'm torn between Steve an Alexa. I think I would be more apt to read Alexa's book first, so I will vote for her.

I also have to admit that a few of these I had checked off as not making the final when I breezed through entries.

Thanks for the contest, it's the first one I've entered and I was very nervous knowing people were actually reading something I had written.

LoNy said...

Alexa, definitely. It's a nice piece of smooth, professional writing.

Shawn McGuire said...

Alexa. She set of tons of images in my head with "my Mom, standing ramrod straight beside me, dressed in defiant yellow and movie star sunglasses."

Heather said...

I love Natalie's. The voice is engaging and comedic, making me want to continue reading more than the others.

Professor Tarr said...

I have to admit that most of these were on my keeper list though not necessarily the top five. But upon rereading them I can see why they did.

Natalie I have to admit to passing over completely because of the jargony use of KISS. I tend to cringe when I read things like that because I've heard too many so-called motivational speakers use stuff like that. But on this read, I certainly understand how this was chosen and can really see how it could make a fun series even. Ninjas working at a karate school - pretty sustainable.

The tetrahydrogametichlorine piece floated right over me too. It's not my genre so my little peabrain got hung up immediately on the polysyllabic words. THat being said, the premise itself when I make myself get past that tetra thing is really good. Better than good - it draws you in. And it has that sense that the story can go in any number of ways that are worthy of traversing.

Somebody mentioned Steve's final line before and frankly that is truly good enough by itself. I'd almost put it first and leave it. It hangs out there like many memorable first liners - it says everything. Right now, it serves a slightly different purpose - it does what many of the contest entries do - provides a punch line to a rhythmic setup. Which is fine. More than fine. But that is a great line and I'd push it even more. Can't wait to read what he does with the rest of the story.

The blood pooling butterfly is really great visually stirring writing. Simple concise. Spot on.

The funeral piece is so danged deceptive. I flew by it several times before it caught me. Perhaps too many family funerals in these things... but she caught me. It is in the recognition of detail. Nicely done. We almost preternaturally know these people already.

The heliophobic group is another not of my natural element, but I have to tell you the line about loathing the sun's intentions would cause me to reach for my wallet and plunk down some change on contact. There is something in the rhythm and crispness of that which is witty in a way we often overlook. The expiration bit too is darned swell. Great word choices. Screw what it's about - I'm in!

Overall I think they are all great entries. I frankly couldn't decide on those snippets alone though. I'd ask for a partial next paragraph and see what's up from that.

Or I'd just go back and make my own list of why ashen, naked trees, Walther Matthau and swords in dresses would bring requests for fulls immediately as well.

Great fun. Kudos to all.

Anonymous said...

First: thanks so much for the contest and your humour.

Second: Am surprised by the choices as none of them really stand out and say "Read me!" Others on the list did. Weird.

Third: With these choices, I vote for Alexa, who seems to have an elegant and mature style.

Mcherr said...

I woke up this morning, all excited, then a bit disappointed, but that's the fun aspect. And reading all of the others submissions.

I vote for Alexa. Her imagery and setting pull me in.

The Pearl Poet said...

I'm voting for MA.

Louise Kuskovski said...

My vote goes to MA.

RC said...

Wow, Nathan, that was quick.

Congrats to all. My vote goes to Alexa.

Thanks again, Nathan.

Ulysses said...

My gosh. These are wonderful.

My vote goes to Alexa.

Candace Isenhower said...

I vote for Don Draper. He's hot. Like, superman hot.

Just kidding, I vote for Natalie.

Anita said...

Natalie.

I like them all, but for the mood I'm in right now, I'd pick up Natalie's book.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I don't mean disrespect. I love your blog and I love you! But I never seem to like your finalist choices very much. Maybe because I think I'm twice your age...another generation, perhaps? They just don't get me, or I don't get them. Congrats anyway to the finalists. It was a fun contest, as always.

Liz said...

Steve gets my vote.

slcard said...

I will give my vote to Morgan, but I would read all of these books, and others from the entries.

Congratulations everyone.

CC said...

I vote for...

Steve Axelrod!!!


(Beautiful, Steve Axelrod, I loved the "thin, sunburned shoulders," and I loved the "setting off an avalanche with a sigh" line at the end... fabulous! I'd buy it in a heartbeat.)

Bobbie said...

Although it doesn't sound like the makings of what I would normally read, I was most immediately drawn to Morgan's, so that's where I cast my vote. I figure if I like it so much in spite of my usual leanings, it might just be a surprise to me. All of these, however, had some great writing. Congratulations.

MC said...

The only one that interests me in the least is Morgan's.

irishoma said...

Natalie gets my vote, followed closely by Steve.

Aimless Writer said...

I vote for Morgan.
Creeped me out. Shades of Dean Koontz.

Dawn Colclasure said...

I vote for MA. Woot!

Amity said...

I vote for Natalie.

debra said...

I vote for Steve with Morgan coming in a close second.

Scott said...

I choose Chris' paragraph. Not just because it intrigued me and his idea seemed the most "out of the box", but I like how he (?) used clever images to set the mood rather than complex, penetrating prose. Also, he dared to use the word "shit".

Megoblocks said...

Gotta vote for Natalie's ninjas. Great voice.

Mim said...

I vote for Steve.

Just a thought though--wouldn't it be easier to count with a poll that you could take down after the voting was done? Maybe you don't want to do that to prevent people from voting more than once though.

Great contest! Thanks so much!

Lorrie T. said...

I vote for Steve Axelrod's paragraph, but I also liked Alexa's entry.

Meg Wiviott said...

Wow! It's a difficult choice. I'm glad I didn't have to read all 1364 entries to pick the final six.

Can there be a tie? I liked Steve and Morgan's paragraphs. If I have to pick one, though, it'd be Steve.

Carley said...

I vote Natalie. They were all good and it was hard to choose, but hers stuck out. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that two finalists start with weather, but what the hay.

It's not the kind of book I'd read, but MA had powerful start.

Jason said...

Well done to all finalist.

I prefer Morgan first with Natalie just a tick behind.

brimfire said...

I'm torn between Natalie and Morgan. Hmm. I'm going to go with MORGAN because I'm intrigued by the two minds inside one person thing. I have to know where that goes.

Congrats to all six!

Jenny said...

Alexa with Natalie a very close second.

Jennifer Marie Donahue said...

I vote for ALEXA. Great stuff there.

Rachel Hawkins said...

Congrats to all the finalists! Hmmm... for me, it's b/n Natalie and Steve Axelrod. Think think I'm gonna go with STEVE AXELROD b/c there's something so evocative about the "thin, sun-burned shoulders." And I really want to know who this Debbie person is and what happens next!

Cass said...

Nathan, thanks for holding the contest and your amazing decision speed.

Have to say that among the finalists I liked only Natalie for my teenage kids, Chris for me, and Alexa for my sister.

I vote for Chris. IMO his entry would be even stronger if he left off his last sentence, which for me told too much.

Elena said...

Nathan,

thanks for the contest. That was fun.

Abby said...

Steve Axelrod FTW! Elegant voice, with enough intention to suggest strong pacing thereafter.

Leo said...

I vote for MA, for the striking image that arrests imagination (and attention, too).

Natalia is in the second place, in my opinion. Terse and forceful.

The other finalists are wordy and tepid. It seems they were chosen mainly because the paragraphs were long enough to describe things better, but not overly long.

Short but striking first paragraphs that nevertheless managed to define the flavor of the story (if not the details) were penalized for no good reason, with the exception of MA's.

Caroline Steele said...

I vote for Chris. But they're all fantastic!

taralazar said...

Wonderful contest! Thanks again, Nathan!

My vote is for Steve Axelrod. I want to read the rest of his novel based upon those few lines.

Leo said...

To add to what I said earlier, I believe it's better for the first paragraph to be terse, catchy, introduce a character with a conflict, and give a flavor of the story. Additional detail may go into the second paragraphs.

Most of the finalists' first paragraphs seem to be doing the job of the second ones.

Jess said...

Some great choices!

My vote is for Steve Axelrod.

My runner up is Alexa. :)

Lonestar2007 said...

Natalie has by far the best pitch: "The book children love, but instead of wizards or vampires: NINJAS."

If anyone else wins we'll know the judge isn't really Donald Draper, but a poser fanboy of the slow, bloated, uberliterary Mad Men style that makes the critics rave but lacks the commercial appeal of Harry Potter and Twilight.

Deniz Bevan said...

Congrats to the finalists! My vote goes to Alexa :-)

abc said...

Wow! They are all awesome. So hard to chose. But my official vote goes to:

STEVE AXELROD!


Thanks for the contest, Nathan!

Jeanie W said...

Congratulations to all the finalists.

Thank you, Nathan, for hosting the contest. It's interesting to see what kinds of stories your followers are writing.

My vote goes to MA. Beautifully written, it's the one selection that makes me want to read the next paragraph. What's the reason for Nicholas Avery's apparent emotional detachment? Is he a detective or a murderer?

Oh, and I believe Bill (8:23pm) brings up a good point. Some readers (especially the reluctant kind) do like to enter a story in the midst of action.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to all the finalists!

Great work, and I can see why some agents get depressed? saddened? irritated? I don't know what the word is when they read intriguing opening paragraphs or chapters but the work tapers off in the middle or the end. The stainability factor, once the ante is upped at the beginning must make for a heartbreaking decision. And I can see why he'd choose these entries. What I would be interested to know is how many of Nathan's contest winners get offered representation after its all said and done. The premise is just the first step. The total execution is probably the clincher, but my hope is that all the finalists live up to their promising beginnings. At least they know they're on the right track (yes I know its subjective, but the contest was fun, and I was hoping Nathan would break 2000 entries) Great job everyone!

A writer whose ego can take a hit and keep punching back

Jennifer McKenzie said...

My vote is bouncing between Natalie's and Alexa's.
I think I like Natalie's the best. I love the voice.

Feywriter said...

My vote definitely goes to Morgan. All of these were incredibly good. I'm glad I didn't have to judge.

Jessica said...

Alexa

Karen Duvall said...

Morgan, what an awesome story! Your paragraph gets my vote. 8^)

Angela said...

Wonderful job, Finalists!
I am a hit-me-over-the-head type of reader myself, but there is just something enigmatic about Steve's opening that makes me want to know how those slight shoulders will carry this book.

So Steve's by a nose, little ninjas close behind.

Mira said...

This was a fun contest.

All of the finalists wrote wonderful paragraphs. I have to admit, though, that there were some submissions that I really loved that didn't make the list. But it may be because Nathan was looking for openings that were more subtle.

I like them all, but my vote goes for Steve. The last sentence is gorgeous - avalanche with a sigh. Beautiful line.

Roland said...

Great choices. A few of these stuck out when I was sifting through the submissions. All of these are excellent and I particularly love the butthurt anonymous posters that are pretending to disagree.

Anyway, my vote is for Natalie.

I kept going back to her because the voice is so inviting and I really want to meet the ninja dad.

Lupina said...

I vote for Chris and congratulate all the finalists.

Thanks to both Nathan and Don for the incredible amount of time they must have invested.

G. Hooten Popp said...

Steve Alexrod

spinney said...

Natalie!

Renee said...

MA gets my vote. I like the touch of noir.

Lehcarjt said...

Natalie

It is the only one that appealed to me at all.

Roland said...

Not to clog up the comments, but I also wanted to quickly point out that I'm about a week new to the blog, and I have to say that this contest is one of the most valuable things I've ever found online as a writer. It reveals my immediate competition in the field. I'm treated to a thousand quick examples from other writers that are facing the same obstacles. Now I know exactly where the bar is set.

Many thanks!

teacherwriter said...

Steve Axelrod -- I want to know what happens with Deborah!

Colorado Writer said...

I vote for Don Draper. Yum.

Kim said...

Congrats to the finalists. I thought each had something special. Well done.

My vote goes to Chris

Anonymous said...

I vote MA

Ryan Field said...

Steve Axelrod.

He got me with the first sentence.

Juliana Stone said...

this was fun Nathan.....my top pick didn't make the cut....but, out of these I was really struck by MA.
loved it. was short and concise and I want to read more!

Stephanie Secrest said...

Morgan all the way!

Go Morgan!

Anonymous said...

Congrats finalists! My vote goes to Morgan

DCS said...

Steve Axelrod. There were a number of good ones that didn't even make the cut. I confess I wasn't able to read each one. Congrats to all who submitted an entry and thanks to Nathan for sponsoring.

Anonymous said...

NATALIE.

Eric said...

Count my dangling chad as swinging for Steve Axelrod.

Kudus to all the finalists...some nice work done by all.

Thanks for another contest, Nathan. Now go ahead and deduct four sanity points.

Raynbow said...

Congratulations to the finalists! My vote is for Alexa.

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