Short-story writers are often told that if they don’t grab the attention of an editor immediately with a hot hook in the opening sentence or opening paragraph, the editor will reject the story. Similarly, novelists are told that they must captivate the bookstore browser with their first page, or the browser will put the book back on the shelf. This puts a lot of pressure on the opening of a work. How do you write an opening that will grab the readers attention and show them just how awesome your story is? It’s a difficult task, so we asked the Odyssey graduates for their tips and advice when it comes to writing a strong opening.
Writers are told that they must accomplish many things in an opening scene–grab the reader’s attention, set up the conflict, introduce the protagonist, establish the setting, establish the point of view and style, raise a question, and on and on. What goals do you try to achieve in an opening scene? What elements do you introduce? What do you think is most important for an opening scene? How are your goals different for the opening scene of a short story and the opening scene of a novel?
Interview by Shara Saunsaucie White
Patricia Bray will be a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Workshop this summer. She is the author of a dozen novels, including Devlin’s Luck, which won the 2003 Compton Crook Award for the best first novel in the field of science fiction or fantasy. A multi-genre author whose career spans both Regency romance and epic fantasy, Patricia has had her books translated into Russian, German, Hebrew and Portuguese. She is a two-time co-chair of the Southern Tier Writer’s conference, and her articles on the writer’s craft have appeared in numerous publications, including Broadsheet, Nink, STARbytes and RWA’s Keys to Success: A Professional Writer’s Career Handbook.
Patricia lives in upstate New York, where she combines her writing with a full-time career as an I/T professional, ensuring that she is never more than a few feet away from a keyboard. Her latest novel is The Final Sacrifice, the concluding volume in The Chronicles of Josan, which was released by Bantam Spectra in July 2008. You can visit her website at http://www.sff.net/people/patriciabray/.
Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What do you feel you were doing wrong in your writing in those early days?
Congratulations to David J. Schwartz, class of 1996, for his 2008 Nebula nomination. Published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House, Superpowers is Schwartz’s debut novel, and this is his first nomination in the Novel category.
David J. Schwartz’s short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, including the anthologies Paper Cities, The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Twenty Epics. He attended Odyssey in 1996 and has participated in workshops with the Semi-Omniscients, the Supersonics, and the Sycamore Hill Writing Workshop. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
You can visit David on his website at http://snurri.livejournal.com/.
For more about Superpowers, click through to read the blurb:
Podcast #24 is now available for download here.
In her guest lecture at Odyssey 2008, literary agent Jenny Rappaport provided so much useful information that we’ve chosen to make a second excerpt from her talk available as another podcast (for her first excerpt, see Podcast #23). In this podcast, Jenny explains how to write a strong query letter. Jenny first discusses what a query letter shouldn’t do and what information shouldn’t be included. You can find an example of what Jenny considers a bad query letter on her blog, here: http://litsoup.blogspot.com/2008/01/huh-or-plot-does-not-make-sense.html (you need to scroll down). Jenny explains the importance of a strong hook to open a query letter and reads examples of weak hooks and strong hooks. The query letter then needs to establish the novel’s conflict and get the reader engaged with the main character and the plot. Jenny discusses how to describe your novel–what makes a middle grade book, a young adult book, or an adult book–and whether to compare your book to other books.
Jenny Rappaport is the owner of The Rappaport Agency, LLC, a boutique literary agency specializing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, young adult, and romance. She has previously worked at Folio Literary Management and the L. Perkins Agency. Jenny attended Carnegie Mellon University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She is a 2002 graduate of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Her nonfiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her microfiction in Thaumatrope. She is currently working on a novel in her free time.
Congratulations to Krista Hoeppner Leahy, class of 2007, for her third place finish in the 4th quarter of the 25th annual Writers of the Future Contest! Krista’s story “The Dizzy Bridge” will be available in the 25th volume of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthology, available later this year. “The Dizzy Bridge” will be her first professional-level publication.