New First Line Contest Rules and Regs Update

December 7, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 43 comments

Okay so here are some things to consider with regard to the First Line Contest, which will commence Monday, December 8th at 7 p.m. Pacific time. But more specifically when the blog post titled GAME ON! Is posted, that is the official green flag.  Any entries posted on this blog will be null and void.  So to make it crystal clear, on Monday, December 8th at 7 p.m. Pacific time I will post a blog, titled GAME ON! Then and only then can you post your first line.

While the contest is open to all writers, there are a few lines that will not be acceptable:  Lines that are previously published or under contract are not admissible. If I find the subject matter offensive, and since it’s my contest it’s my call I will delete them.  And I can tell you right now, anything that is politically inflammatory, religiously inflammatory, racist, vulgar or just nasty rude will be deleted.  Do not go there, this is not that kind of contest. 

If you follow the guidelines below, you should be good to go. If you have a question/s, post them to the comment section of this blog post. I will do my best to answer all of them before the contest officially commences.

The prize? The five finalists will have the opportunity to send 10 pages of their story beginning with their original first line to Grand Central Senior Editor, Amy Pierpont.

Now, here are a few First Line rules

*I will accept only 100 entries. The first 100 first lines that adhere to these rules:

*Rule number one: Each entry must be ONE line. One line meaning one sentence, one statement or one dialogue line with one dialogue tag. That said, that does not mean you can have three complete sentences in dialogue quotes followed by a dialogue tag and it be considered one line.  Example, “Oh my god, Johnny.  You’re bleeding everywhere!” Jane cried. That my friends is two lines with a dialogue tag.  No can do.  Here’s another example of what you cannot do:  “Oh, my god, Johnny!”  Jane ran crying to him as he bled on the floor.  That is two lines. Here is what you can do.  “Oh, my God, Johnny,” Jane cried. 

Semi colons, colons are okay, but remember, in many ways, less is more. My advice? Make a quick hard hitting punch then pull back and watch the reader fall for the next line.  Now, that said, do not use a colon or semi colon when you know damn well it’s just hooking two complete and separate lines together so you can get more words crammed into a line. Here’s a little hint about that: In past contests?  Those lines irritate the judges and they cull them first.

*Which brings me to rule number two: The line you begin with is the line you stay with, along with each subsequent line. No adding, subtracting or changing words. This will be strictly enforced. Please don’t make more work for me. During the last contest it was brought to my attention that there were several changes, and while unintentional, if any lines this time around are changed the entry will be dropped. I will not notify you, it just won’t show up the following week.

*Numero three: If you make it to the next round and don’t post your subsequent line in time you will not be notified, and you will be dropped. No exceptions. We had an excellent entry last year that most likely would have finaled, but because of an electrical hiccough, the person was unable to post her line by the deadline at the end of the week. My suggestion? Post it asap to avoid freaky things like that.

*Four: The following round will be posted some time each Monday. Each entrant has until midnight Friday (of the same week) to post their next line. I will enforce this. My judge needs the weekend at the very least to make their picks. And be sure when you post your subsequent line you also post the lines that got you there. To reiterate: The deadline is midnight Pacific time the Friday following the Monday the next round is posted, except the first week.  The 80 lines that make it to round two will be posted some time Monday the 15th, you will have until midnight Friday the 20th to post your first line and your next line.  The lines will be judged over the weekend and the lines that make it to round three will be posted some time the following Monday.

*Five: For the first two rounds, 20 lines will be culled each week. When we hit 60 entries, I will go down to 5 a week. If not all entrants post, I will only have the judge cull the amount necessary to get to the next multiple of 5. Example: if we are at 40 and 5 are culled making the next round 35 and only 32 of those entrants post, only 2 will be culled to keep the next round at 30. I will not allow previously culled lines to reenter. It’s too confusing, too much work, and causes too much strife. And I’m grumpier this time around.

*Six: I will open the contest 7 p.m. PACIFIC time Monday December 8th.

*Let’s be fair. One entry per person.  Last year there were two folks who used two different email addy’s for two different lines, even after the rules clearly stated one line per person, and it really pissed me off.  I do not like cheaters and this time around, they will be dropped, period.

****Seven: To avoid the problems we had last year with entrants posting early and thus being dropped for doing so, I will post a commencement blog at 7 p.m. PACIFIC time Monday December 8th titled Game On, when you see it, go for it. Any lines posted before that post will be automatically dropped, and it will be up to you to pay attention and get back into the hunt. After the first 100 legitimate first lines are posted, the contest will be closed to new entries. I’ll post a blog announcing the contest is closed. I’ll be monitoring closely. There will be many comments along with the first lines so it can get confusing. But I will make the cut at the correct entry, it just may take me a bit to figure it out. Last year the spots were filled in less than 30 minutes, I expect it will go sooner this year.

*Again, the five finalists will have the opportunity to send the first 10 pages of their first line story to Grand Central Senior Editor Amy Pierpont. She will pick the winner and hopefully ask to see fulls, which I hope will result in a sale.

*As with the previous contests, I will have a different anonymous judge (a New York multi-published author) cull five entries a week, 20 each the first two weeks. I will be keeping better records this year, and let me just say thanks again to my judges. While they thoroughly enjoyed the job, they found it very difficult and asked me on several occasions to be the tie-breaker. I passed. I know too many of you, and could not in good conscience do it. So, all I can say, is: put your best line forward every week. And good luck!

*Have a question? Let’s get them out of the way now.

K* who is really excited!


  1. Edie

    Karin, I’m looking forward to this contest! I get the feeling it’s going to fill up fast.

  2. J. Carson Black

    Karin – don’t know if you’ve addressed this, but is there any way to denote a new paragraph within the text (assuming a writer gets far enough to start a new paragraph), or does it all read like one solid chunk?

  3. Karin

    Edie, I think so too. Can’t wait to read all of the lines!

    Good question, Jake. How about if we use NP to indicate a new paragraph?

  4. Brandy W

    Good luck everyone. Its a great thing you are doing Karin.

  5. Margaret

    The last time I entered I simply hit enter twice, which left a line break between the the two paragraphs. . . kinda like your response to Edie and Jake. 🙂

    Or this…
    -feeling ornery since I actually got medicine to get rid of the crud that I’ve have for over a month.. .

  6. HollyD

    That’s what I did, Margaret. I’m so excited. I can’t wait. Good luck everyone.

    Karin – Thank you soooo much for doing this. It’s a lot of work.

  7. J. Carson Black

    Margaret – that makes sense to me.

  8. Theresa


    Thanks so much for doing this again. I’m really looking forward to both participating as well as watching the lines evolve. This contest is hands down the best one I’ve ever entered.

    And to the rest of the participating first liners,
    Best OF Luck!


  9. Julie

    What a generous offer! I’ll be passing this on to my writing group.
    Thanks, Julie

  10. Julie Robinson

    BTW, I’m in the midst of Master of Surrender and find it to be a very gripping tale. Reminds me of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove, one of the first romance novels that ever gripped my soul. Julie

  11. Anita Davison

    The link was passed to me by my Critique Group – Is this aimed mainly at contemporary [and erotic] novelists or can anyone try? I ask because I write historical fiction and worry I may not be ‘punchy’ enough for you

  12. Amanda

    What a great opportunity. I can’t wait.

  13. bria

    Karen – this is great! I’m looking forward to following along.

    This is the first time I’ve seen the contest. Do you just post your line — or do you put something about the genre too?

    Thanks so much for doing this!

  14. rita

    Don’t know if I’ll enter but it will be fun to see how this plays out.

  15. Karin Tabke

    Hey, Theresa! Here we go again! 🙂

    Julie so glad you’re reading SURRENDER! and enjoying it! MASTER OF TORMENT, Wulfson’s story picks up a few months later.

    Anita, it’s not about being punchy for me, it’s about hooking the judges with a line that makes them want to read the next line. and the contest is open to any writer, writing any genre, that said, Amy primarily acquires women’s fiction, which historical falls into.

    Amanda, are you ready?

    Bria, line only.

  16. Missy

    Just heard about this contest – sounds exciting – can’t wait!

  17. Cathy

    Thanks for doing this Karin!

    I read through last year’s entries and enjoyed watching the stories unfold.

    The posts about why the entries didn’t make the cut were very interesting (and helpful!). Do you plan to do that again this year?

  18. Karin


  19. Sami

    Not me. I’m hiding behind a pseudonym. Saves potential embarrassment.

  20. Poppy

    Good luck, everyone!

  21. Karin

    test time stamp 1:10 pm

  22. Karin

    Cathy that is completely up to the judges. some did last time and some didn’t.

  23. janet jones

    Karin, sorry if I missed this elsewhere, but is the contest only for romances?


  24. Tiffany G Lawson

    I dreamt a winner first line last night and locked in my brain while I was brushing my teeth. Ack! Throughout the day it has morphed into a stinky pile of goop… I just keep thinking – LESS IS MORE ! !! Come on Mark Twain, speak to me!

  25. Tiffany G Lawson

    checkin my clock TEST

  26. Karin

    Janet it is open to all genres.

    tiffany, clean off the goop and get back to the meat of the line.

  27. Sherry Moris

    All we post is the first line? Not our title or name or anything else?

  28. Karin

    first line only, sherry

  29. Tiffany G Lawson

    Goop gone. Just leaving the grit. :0) Thanks!

  30. Amanda Murphy

    With more people showing up each year I guess I’ll have to use my full name for this contest.

  31. Karen Duvall

    Now I have to test the time because my clock’s not jiving with this blog’s clock, and I live on the west coast. Hmm… I’ve got 3:06 here.

  32. Karen Duvall

    I posted after 32 yet I’m 29 on the blog. How weird is that? Sorry to take up the comments area, Karin, but this is just plain weird. Now my clock says 3:07 and the last comment has a time stamp of 3:47. OMG! I’m in a time machine!

  33. Karin

    Karen we’re in the same time zone. since the time zone was off on the blog clock my web dude changed it to pacific time around 1 or so today and with that, comments look to be out of order. just keep watch for the blog titled Game On! i will post it promptly at 7 p.m. pacific time tonight.

  34. Marilyn

    Testing time 5:12 CST

  35. Sherry Morris

    So we just post the first line, nothing else? No title? Not our name?

  36. Karen Duvall

    LOL, Karin! That’s crazy. I thought I was losing it. 8^) Thanks for the reassurance that Pacific Time in Oregon has changed overnight. Ha!

  37. Karin

    sherry, post only your first line.

    if you go back to the blog archive and look at the oct 15th 2007 blog post then follow it you can get a sense of how the contest proceeds.

  38. Mary Marvella

    The tension builds!

  39. Sherry Morris

    Thanks, Karin. I’m all set. You are a gem 🙂

  40. Cecilia LeBaron

    I love this contest! Very exciting. Question though: How many weeks will the contest last?

  41. Cecilia LeBaron

    Nevermind… I figured it out. After 2 weeks, we’re down to 60 entries. Then the number of entries decreases by five every week. So once we’re down to 60, it will take about 11 or 12 weeks. (For those of you who were slow like me) 🙂

  42. Mai Christy Thao

    Hi Karin, looking forward to this contest. Thanks for running it again. I know how much work goes into this on your part. It’s much appreciated.

  43. Sherry Morris

    I’ve selected my manuscript and have my first line all set. Hoping the computer goblins don’t visit any of us tonight.

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