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Inkpop.com is a website run by Harper Collins Publishers for those interested in writing for young adults. It offers a blog, author interviews, a forum, live chats on publishing-related topics, and book reviews. Members have the opportunity to post their own novels, short stories, and poetry for critique by fellow writers. They can give input on the works posted via a ranking system, and the top 5 in each category are reviewed by Harper Collins editors at the end of each month. This doesn’t guarantee any of the projects will be accepted for publication, but it is a possibility.

Though I haven’t joined the site, I like many of its features.

  • It’s easy to navigate, colorful, and looks as though it’s designed by professionals.
  • The forums are active, and the threads I read show members interacting and trying to help each other.
  • The blog provides helpful information, including writing tips, interviews, and book reviews.
  • Live chats with authors, marketers, and other publishing professionals give members a chance to ask questions and receive answers from people with more expertise than themselves.
  • The instructions for uploading writing projects were clear and simple.

The site’s primary target is writers of young adult fiction, and many of the members appear to be young writers. Though I don’t fit into either category, I thought the site looked interesting and ended up reading several of the projects that were posted, as well as a few of the book reviews. Over all, I would feel comfortable using this site if I wanted to get feedback from other writers on a young adult project, or wanted to learn more about that genre.

Have you used Inkpop or a similar site? If so, was it a good experience? What advantages or disadvantages do you see to posting work on a site like that for feedback?

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Tricia Sutton wrote an interesting post about opening hooks a few days ago. She wrote down the first sentence out of 10 books, and asked which ones interested her blog readers enough to want to read more of the story. Only 1 caught my interest.

Since my own novel’s opening is causing me problems, I thought I’d copy Tricia’s idea and take a look at some of the first sentences in the genre I’m working in—suspense. I randomly chose 6 of the suspense novels I own, and looked at the first sentence. Here they are:

“I told you this was a great place.” First sentence of the prologue of Killer Dreams, by Iris Johansen

“Embraced by stone, steeped in silence, I sat at the high window as the third day of the week surrendered to the fourth.” First sentence of Chapter 1 of Brother Odd, by Dean Koontz

“The one called the Gavel waited patiently.” First sentence of the prologue of In Silence, by Erica Spindler

“Ten-year-old Liza was dreaming her favorite dream, the one about the day when she was six years old, and she and Daddy were at the beach, in New Jersey, at Spring Lake.” First sentence of the prologue of No Place Like Home, by Mary Higgins Clark

“The cutting edge of a winter storm made the old house sigh and moan as if someone was dying.” First sentence of the prologue of Always Time to Die, by Elizabeth Lowell

“It began when Mary and Brad Johnstone went to the psychic fair and happened upon the tent offering readings.” First sentence of the prologue of Deadly Harvest, by Heather Graham

What I found interesting wasn’t so much the first sentences as the fact that 5 out of 6 used prologues, which I’ve frequently read are not popular. Each of these books was published within the last 5 years, so I don’t think it’s a matter of being outdated. Perhaps prologues just fit the suspense genre better than others.

Getting back to the original topic of opening hooks, I have to admit these didn’t really affect my decision to buy the books. These are authors I’m familiar with already, so a quick perusal of the back cover or jacket flap to see what the story is about would have been enough motivation for me to plunk down my money. I’m more likely to read a few paragraphs before buying a book by an unknown author, but I still wouldn’t judge one by the first sentence.

The point of what I’m saying here is that I think many of us worry too much about our novel opening. What appeals to one person won’t necessarily seem like a great hook to everyone else, and there are other factors that affect someone’s decision to read a book. A great opening line is helpful, but it isn’t going to be enough to keep anyone reading if the rest of the story stinks.

The important thing, in my opinion, is to write the best story we can, with an opening that suggests what’s ahead, followed by sentences that each flow naturally into the next one. Hooking the reader with every sentence will work better than counting on one sentence or paragraph to do the job.

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Do you read the first sentence, the first paragraph, or several paragraphs when deciding whether or not to read a book? If the opening pages of a book you start reading don’t interest you, how likely are you to finish reading the rest of the book? Do books in the genre you read most usually have a prologue? Do you buy books by certain authors without bothering to see what the story is about?

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There’s an essay contest on the Editor Unleashed forum that you might be interested in entering. Entries of 750 words or less on the topic of “Why I Write” will be accepted until December 31, 2009. Members of the forum will be voting on them from January 4, 2010 through January 29, 2010. Winners will be announced on February 1, 2010. The 50 best will be included in an ebook anthology published by Smashwords, and editor Maria Schneider will select one essay as the Grand Prize Winner. The Grand Prize is $500.

There is no entry fee but you must register with the forum (for free) in order to enter or to vote. There are some excellent entries already posted, so the competition will be tough. I’m enjoying reading them, and debating on whether to enter the contest myself. The Editor Unleased forum is one of my favorites, so even if you aren’t interested in submitting an essay, you might enjoy visiting the site.

Here’s the link to the contest rules:

http://editorunleashed.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2865

Good luck to all who enter!

Edit December 23, 2009:   

There has been a problem with the Editor Unleashed Forum software the last few days preventing anyone from reading or posting there. I’ve heard that someone is working on it, and will let you know when the forum is accessible again.

December 30, 2009: The forum is back. The Why I Write contest deadline has been extended; entries will be accepted until January 31, 2010.

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I’ve been busy with truck stuff and yard work, so am falling behind in my posts. I’m working on one that I hope will be up within the next day or two concerning a writer’s “voice.” 

I also entered a contest, minutes before the deadline, and became one of more than 280 people hoping to get their story published in a Flash Fiction Anthology. If you are a member of the Editor Unleashed forum, or would like to become a member, please be sure to read my story–as well as everyone else’s–and give an honest ranking. I don’t anticipate winning the grand prize, but I would like to know what people think about my fiction-writing skills. Here’s the link to the forum, where I am known as Carol (just like in real life ), and my story is called Time for a Change: http://editorunleashed.com/forum/index.php

There are lots of good flash fiction stories posted, and reading and ranking them is time-consuming but fun. Join and Vote!

my flash story: Time for a Change

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