Thanks to our judge, Laura Williams, literary agent with PFD, for choosing a winner and two runners-up for the 2017 First Chapter Competition. Laura has asked to read the full MS from all three of the writers in her top spots; and has provided short feedback on each shortlisted chapter below too. Many congratulations to the winner and runners-up, and to all of the writers that made the shortlist. Hopefully Laura’s comments will help with your editing.
Winner: The Moonscape by Eirill Falck
I love the first paragraph. It sets the scene, introduces the key characters, teases the plot – it does absolutely everything you could ever hope a first paragraph would do. The set up works so well in this first chapter, and I’d be very interested in reading more.
Runner-Up: Bouzouki Nights by Emily Kerr
I was instantly on side with the protagonist from the very beginning here, she’s hugely likeable. The writing is very lively and reads so naturally in the way that the best commercial fiction does. It definitely made me want to find out what happens next.
Runner-Up: Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso
There’s a really good flow to the writing here and some absolutely devastatingly beautiful images. I did find the drama of the opening chapter to feel a little too quiet, almost underplayed, so I think there needs to be a focus on packing a punch in the narrative as well as in those really arresting descriptions. I’d very much like to see where the storyline goes.
Click. Bang. by Dave Wakely
A very intriguing premise, I love the dreamlike feel. Be careful to give the reader something solid to latch on to before too long though, otherwise the abstract style can become a little bit confusing.The Virgins of Salem by Fiona Mackintosh
The opening certainly grabs the reader’s attention. The scene setting and vivid description of early 20th century India is very well done. I have absolutely no idea where the story will go from here, but it certainly is a memorable opening chapter!Naked Gardening for the Over Fifties by Catherine Edmund
I admire the very lively writing style in this, but I did find the stream-of-consciousness style here a little bit too frenetic when the reader is settling into the story. Obviously you want to grab the reader with action, but in this case the pace of the main character’s racing thoughts can afford to be slowed down a little. Watch out for tenses too, as sometimes these were inconsistent.The Uprising by Ahize Mbaeliachi
The premise is interesting and unusual, and I would have liked a little more description in these early pages considering the location and historical setting – I wanted the landscape to play a larger role so that the story could really draw me in.A Minute’s Grace by Laura Tisdall
The little crumbs of exposition that are revealed as the chapter goes on are tantalising, and certainly makes the reader want to keep turning the page, although I still felt really in the dark at the end of the chapter about what was going on. The bombshell of the last line doesn’t really land with confidence in the mechanics of the world that’s been created by that point.The Weight of Stones by Ruby Speechley
There’s a good gradual build up of tension here, but some of the dialogue for me towards the end is a little unnatural, and I’d be careful about introducing too many secondary characters too soon, at the cost of keeping the reader’s focus on the protagonist in these opening pages.Soliciting in the City by Isabel Powles
The first day of a new job is a quite common inciting incident in the opening of a story, and it wasn’t clear enough to me from the off what was going to make this storyline stand out above other openings that could be similar, despite good writing and a really relatable protagonist. I sense there’s more here than is currently being let on!
Well done to everyone that made the long and shortlist for this year’s competition.
If you’d like to be in with a chance of getting feedback on your work from a top literary agent, then the 2018 First Chapter Competition is now open for entries.