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Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Announcements and Shameless Plugs | 2 comments

Announcement: Upcoming Contest for Young Writers!

Announcement: Upcoming Contest for Young Writers!


Hey all! My friends at the Kingdom Pen e-magazine are putting on a new contest, and I’m honored to be one of the judges. It’s for writers aged thirteen to nineteen, and since I know a lot of you guys are happily scribbling through your teen years, I thought I’d let you know! 


More good news: You probably already have something you can enter. Kingdom Pen is asking for the first paragraph of your novel–just the first paragraph. Polish up that big square chunk of words you’re so proud of and send it in.

The contest will be open for entries on the 9th of this month. For more info, here’s a link to the official contest announcement:

Here are a few things I’ll be watching for as a judge in this contest:



Your story is about a character, right? With very few exceptions, if I don’t see this guy or gal in the first paragraph, I’m going to feel like I’m waiting for Godot, and become irritated. Because like most readers, I’m impatient and bratty.

I want to see more than the Character posing next to his name, though. I want to see him doing something that defines him, something that gives me an idea of just who I’m going to be following around for the next 50,000 words.

If he’s being active, he needs to be doing something that shows me a piece of who he is.

If he’s being reactive, he needs to be reacting in a way that shows me a piece of who he is.



Something else I want to have after reading the first paragraph is an idea of where this story is taking place. I don’t like the feeling that I’m watching people running around in a sterile white room. (Unless they are in fact actually running around in a sterile white room.)

I’m not asking for gargantuan, torrential pages of Dickens-esque description. One paragraph isn’t a whole lot of space to work with, so just give me one or two concise, poignant detail that give me a taste of where this story is happening. Coarse sand under bare feet. A moist tropical sun battering the back of my neck. My imagination can work with that.


A Desire

Fulfilled characters who want for nothing are boring. When I meet a character for the first time, I like to get the feeling that she wants something, needs something to happen before she can be completely content with her place in life.

Maybe your character is pretty content, though. The inciting incident hasn’t happened yet, the event that’s going to collapse her world and send her spinning into the current of your story.

But how many people are truly content? There’s always something we want, or need to be comfortable. Find what it is for your character, and then let us have a hint of it in your first paragraph. Even if it’s only an itch between his shoulder blades that needs to be scratched. Something to throw the story world off-balance a little bit, hint that things aren’t going to be hunky-dory, that we’re in a world where normal stuff–and bad stuff–can and absolutely will happen.


Just some things to think about! If you’re interested in entering, hop over to Kingdom Pen and take a look at the official details.





photo credit: Letter of Intent via photopin (license)


  1. Fun stuff!

    Also, I’m really struck by: “But how many people are truly content?”

    That’s a great question to ask when you start with a character that may be “technically okay” with their lot in life.

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