Challenge 1: Have your opening page critiqued by Harlequin editors

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by Patience Smith, Senior Editor, Romantic Suspense

Now it’s your turn!

You know you have a great story waiting to bust out. The key is getting started.  First things first: a great opening line leading into a captivating opening page. How are you going to make the editor put down her coffee and clear her appointments for the rest of the day?  What are your characters saying to you?  Don’t ask me, write it down. :)

As you’re working, percolating, writing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Don’t get bogged down in eloquence. Just start writing the story—your story. You can finesse your words later.

2. Make sure your story starts in an exciting place. Don’t have the heroine brushing her hair or thinking as she drives her car.  The characters should be moving somehow, even if they’re actively grappling with a dilemma.

3. While your opening page is fabulous, grabbing us in from the start, don’t forget to describe the physical elements of your setting and characters.

4. Remember that this opening page is a way to hook your reader. Show us what you’ve got! Pull out all the stops!  Great opening lines can live forever and this is your chance to show off your imagination.

5. Characterization is key to survival in a romance novel. Since your reader has to live with these characters for hundreds of pages, you should show the hero or heroine through action, dialogue, point of view—or all of the above.  Make us have to take their journey with them.

What do you do now?  Fine tune your opening page and submit it to us at ucanwrite@harlequin.ca by 6:00 p.m. EST today, Monday, November 1, 2010.  In the subject heading, be sure to write: SYTYCW Opening Page Challenge. A group of expert editors will stay up all night critiquing a random selection of five entries.  They will then, sleepily, post them online by Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.(EST).  Material will be shared on the eHarlequin.com Community at this link. You can also discuss the challenge with fellow submitters before the critiques are posted.

Remember that our selections will be random, so if you don’t see your opening page critiqued, fear not!  You may have another opportunity during the week to get feedback.  So without further ado, your job is to get in that chair and start writing!  Best of luck.  You’re already on the right track.

Oh, and before you get started, here are a few guidelines for the challenge.

1. One entry per person, and please only from people who haven’t been published by Harlequin Enterprises before.
2. And just keep in mind that by sending this in, you’re giving permission for the material to appear on our website.
3. Good luck!

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