Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, February 7, 2013

SUFPC #5 Word Cloud!

Back because it's tradition, the Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph word cloud! I took all 100,000 words in all the entries and here are the most common ones.

As always, "like" looms large. Thanks to the good people at Wordle for the tool:

Finalists will be announced tomorrow! Yes, really! I will have read all 800+ entries! And judged them appropriately!

Any favorites?


Meg said...

Wow, I can't believe you'll have read all those by tomorrow. My eyes cross after the first 50 or so!

untitlement said...

You should post a before and after for your hit count tomorrow. Those of us who'll be hitting refresh like hamsters at a pellet machine will drive the number off the charts.

Next challenge: Write a short story involving all of the above words (in a way that makes sense).

K.E. Skedgell said...

He has skills.

tonyl said...

I'm feeling disappointed. I have exactly one word from my paragraph in the cloud: "one."

No, I don't think it means anything, either. Back to putting words behind that first paragraph.

untitlement said...

There were a lot of paragraphs that I liked this time around. One of my favorites was the boy who was born in an abandoned bank vault in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

Blue said...

there were so many good ones that i seriously do NOT envy you. i couldn't believe how many people had a WIP to submit. and it just made me realize how little you can tell about a book by it's 1st paragraph! ;-)

you're a champ for making it through all of them. i have no idea how you'll decide, but you win a massive Drop of Awesome for doing this!

Anonymous said...

OMGOSH you are faster than my professors and they GET PAID to read stuff...none of the buzz words in my entry, either...bodes well? Or ill? Hmmm...I ponder

Maya Prasad said...

Can't wait to see the finalists! There were SO MANY entries!

Maya Prasad said...

Also, it's interesting that TIME is so large. I hope there is some intriguing time travel!

Cynthia said...

A few blog posts ago, you'd asked about where all the bloggers went...Judging from the incredible response to your call for paragraphs, it appears that they're still around!

I think it's wonderful that you're donating your time to give aspiring authors a chance like this.
I did not enter the contest this time, but I'll be curious to see who the finalists are.

wendy said...

Hmmm...100,000 words in total means that those paragraphs added up to a novel. In other words, Nathan, you read a whole novel in a few days. :)

Nour said...

That's amazing! I did not expect you to have read everything by tomorrow. Though, I hoped you would. By the way, how many finalists are there usually?

Nathan Bransford said...


The number varies from contest to contest, but I just finished up reading them all and have chosen 8 finalists with quite a few honorable mentions. The entries were really good!

Mira said...

Wow, Nathan. I'm impressed. I got through the first page, and then my mind got all foggy.

That is a really hard task - to pick the best eight. Eight! So hard! There were so many good paragraphs!!

I'll share some that stood out for me on the first page: Rebecca J Blain, Liane, CraftyGreenPoet, Jessicca Knauss, Kristen Standley and trudgingthroughfog.

I noticed I've grown as a reader - I used to disagree with you, Nathan, about the gentle unfolding rather than the quick hook, but I've completely changed my mind on that.

I also noticed genre made a HUGE difference. There was one about ninjas that seemed good, but I don't like ninjas, so that was that. And I liked Kristen Standley's historical romance opening because it was fun and I'd keep reading, but I had trouble evaluating it for a contest. No clue. But then, even though Lianne's was disgusting, I still liked it.

So, there you are.

Fun contest, educational. :)

J. M. Strother said...

Like, cool man.

ddelano said...

Wow - amazing that you can do this all so quickly! I am pretty sure I read at least the first sentence of each entry, although there were so many that if I wasn't hooked by those first one or two sentences I just moved on. Looking at all these entries at once really gives a sense of what agents must go through in sorting through all those submissions!
I really enjoyed a number of the entries - I found the ones I was drawn to the most had a strong voice. I jotted down notes of those i liked best, but it ended up being such a long list (like around 35), and I just don't have time to go back and find each one to narrow it down and post my favorites - Nathan how do you do it!?
I did start also jotting down a few things that didn't work for me as a reader. I know I am guilty of at least a couple of these in other WIPs, so now I am going to go take a good hard look at all my openings. But here is my list of opening types that just didn't work for me:
1. opening with a flippant comment about death (either the narrators or someone else's) - i think it is intended to be original and surprising, but when you see how many manuscripts open that way it quickly becomes neither.
2. hiding important information for too long - again i think the intent is to make the reader curious, but when it is just confusing or the narrator is obviously hiding something as a reader i quickly became impatient.
3.opening with a broad observation about life intended to be clever. I think these are tricky to do - some work and some just don't - you have to be really careful with these.
4. Confusing "action" with "narrative tension." So often we, as new writers, are told - open in the middle of things so the reader will be drawn in. But I found as a reader if i was thrown into pure action without proper pacing and voice, i didn't really have a sense of immediately caring what happens to the people who are in the middle of the action. I think instead of thinking about it as opening with action, thinking of it as opening with narrative tension is more productive - whether a charactor is in the middle of a high speed chase or sitting in a chair watching the rain on a window pane, there has to be narrative tension to keep the reader engaged.

So now i will go back to all my WIPs and see what i need to fix!!
Thanks so much for this experience Nathan, as always i learn so much here!
ok - i will just give a quick shout out to the entries on my list that had a star by them - C Jeri, Riley Redgate, Tim Canny, and Kate Langton. There were so many more i liked as well - you guys rock!!
oh - and i think the award for the best title (yes, i know it wasn't required in the entry) should go to the Gay Pirate Romance Novel "There's Seamen on the Poop Deck." Thank you for making me laugh out loud!

Magdalena Munro said...

You're wonderful for doing this Nathan! Thank you and I am happy that your role at CBSinteractive hasn't dampened your enthusiasm for these fun events. Thank you again!

Nathan Bransford said...


Great thoughts! I agree with a lot of what you're saying and I think you'll see them reflected in the comments on the paragraphs tomorrow. It really is invaluable reading through the entries.

Ria Frost said...

It's a little scary how similar the wordle is to previous ones. I would never have thought 'like' was such a popular word.

Magdalena Munro said...

I was thinking how much I would enjoy a Meetup with many of those that entered this contest! I am having a hard time narrowing down the list to my favorites as certain genres that don't appeal to me have entries that are sublimely written, yet, because it's not "my thing" I wasn't hooked. I loved Istvan Szabo's paragraph immensely and wanted to offer my praise!

Shannon A. Thompson said...

I had a wonderful time reading through numerous entries (although I didn't read them all as you did--wish I could.)
My favorite aspect is how writers differ so much, creating their own voice within their genre, and this contest had a lot of that.
Great opportunity. I shared it on my blog, and a couple of my followers entered immediately.

terry said...

fascinating- id vote equally for saille, and chris bailey, on the grounds that those 2 were the ones i definitely wanted more of!
what was interesting is that some of the others i wouldnt even have finished the paragraph, if i had picked them up off a bookstore shelf. so either i'm on a diferent plane, or heaven help you for having to read some of the rest. i applaud the idea, and your endurance in carrying it

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