Novel Boot Camp Kickoff Party! (And Genre Guessing Game!)

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“It’s finally here! It’s finally here!” – Me, running around my house this morning.

It seems like forever ago that I first announced Novel Boot Camp. I asked for topic ideas, your most common editing problems, and I spent hours upon hours (upon hours) writing and perfecting the course. Whew! It almost felt like Boot Camp was never going to arrive!

But here we are at the kickoff party – you with your manuscripts in hand and me ready to do nothing but eat, breathe, and sleep (or not sleep) Novel Boot Camp for the next month. It’s going to be a wild ride!

Before things get too crazy and some of you are inevitably reduced to tears with a bloody manuscript in your hands, let me say that the excitement and enthusiasm for Novel Boot Camp has reminded me of why I do what I do. It is the passion and dedication of writers like you that keeps me blogging, editing, and mentoring. You guys are the greatest!

To celebrate the kickoff party, keep meeting up with writing friends and critique partners (though I know some of you are at more than capacity in that department!) and let your friends and family know that you’ll be putting your pen where your passion is and might be a bit busier (and crazier) than usual. In order to keep the blog comments focused on the workshop, post your kickoff party excitement on Twitter and the FB group.

And now on to our first workshop!

Workshop #1: Genre Guessing Game

June 30 – July 6

For our first workshop, I want to focus on the most important aspect of editing – seeing your novel from the outside.

This is no easy task! You’ve toiled and slaved over your novel. You know it inside and out. If you’ve been editing it long enough, you can probably recite passages from heart. All of that is lovely and wonderful and passionate, but terrible for editing.

So for this first workshop, I want you to send your book out into the world – just a tiny piece of it – to see how it’s perceived by those outside yourself, by the people who know nothing about it.

Participants will submit the first 200 words of their manuscript. Guessers will attempt to identify the genre, tone, and basic plot of the novel. The objective is to have a bit of fun while exploring how your manuscript looks from the outside. Do people think your romantic comedy is a horror/thriller? Do readers expect your story of redemption to be a story of revenge?

Remember that how the Boot Campers perceive your novel is likely how agents and editors will perceive it too. We’ll be talking about why the reader’s perception of the first page is important in our first lecture tomorrow.

Warning: This is a new and totally untested workshop process. Please bare with me if there are any technical kinks or if things seem awkward. I wanted to do something unique so I hope it works!

How to Play the Genre Guessing Game

***Read the FULL directions and follow them or you will not be eligible to participate!***

Firstly, I understand that not all readers are comfortable sharing their work online. If you do not want to submit, you may still participate in the guessing.

How to Submit Your Opening

To streamline the process, decrease cheating, and increase participation, I will be posting all of the first pages anonymously (meaning that no one other than me will know whose first page is whose). If you attempt to submit your own first page, it will be deleted!

The submitted novel openings will be posted as quickly as possible, but since it must be done manually, there will likely be some delay.

Submit your novel’s opening in the form below. It will go to my email and I will manually post the first 200 words only (not your name, genre, tone, etc.) into the comments section.

Note that your novel’s opening is the very first 200 words. If you open with a prologue, use that rather than your first chapter.

How to Guess the Genre

In the comments section below this post, leave a reply to the novel openings submitted and post some or all of the following:

  • Guess the Genre – Is it a contemporary romance? A YA paranormal? A horror/science fiction hybrid? Post your best guess. If you think it’s middle grade or young adult, please also include a genre (adventure, comedy, romance, etc.).
  • Guess the Tone – What do you think the overall tone of this novel is? Is it creepy? Heartwarming? Spiritual? Disturbing? In other words, what adjective would you use to describe the book?
  • Guess the Basic Plot – What do you think this novel is going to be about? What do you expect to happen?
  • Do NOT post a critique of the opening or any comments about the writing quality or style. We will have a novel opening critique later in the month.

Please do not post your guesses anonymously unless you do not want to be eligible to win the prize for best guesser!

Sample comment/guess: I think this is a middle grade  adventure story with a dark tone. I expect it to be about how the main character learns to overcome his fear of the water to defeat a sea monster.

What Should Writers Take Away?

The reader’s perception of your novel is more important than your own. Keep an eye on your novel’s opening this week to see how Boot Campers perceive your work. Is it right in line with your vision or way off?

Is the novel going to deliver what readers seem to expect? We’ll be talking about the importance of the first page’s promise in our first lecture tomorrow.

Prize – Free Edit of Your First 1,000 Words!

This workshop will have two winners! Due to the labor involved in posting, moderating, and then judging the posts, it may take me until after Novel Boot Camp to choose and notify the winners. How long it takes depends on the level of participation.

Award for the Best Guesser: This prize will go to the Novel Boot Camper with guessing power from the gods. In other words: the camper with the most correct guesses.

Award for the Best Opening: This prize will go to the opening that had its novel, genre, and basic plot guessed correctly the most often.

Both winners will receive a free edit of their first 1,000 words.

Connect with Other Novel Boot Camp Participants

Need a writing friend? Got a question? Need a shoulder to cry on? We’re there for you!

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I will be answering writing and editing questions on our Twitter hashtag as time allows. Due to the insane volume of emails I’m receiving, I cannot provide free advice or assistance via email. Thank you!

What is Novel Boot Camp?

Novel Boot Camp is a free online novel writing course focused on identifying and correcting problems in your novel. Learn more about Novel Boot Camp and find past (and future) posts here.

***Don’t miss the second page of novel openings! Look for “Newer Comments” on the bottom of the page!***

1,260 thoughts on “Novel Boot Camp Kickoff Party! (And Genre Guessing Game!)

  1. Ellen_Brock says:

    Cherokee County, Oklahoma

    The hot, metallic taste of blood made Lynea spit as she hurtled headlong through the Ozark Mountain Forest. This wasn’t the first time the reverend had injured her this severely, but with luck, it might be the last. As she dodged a massive shape in the night that turned out to be a boulder, her tongue automatically sought the hole where her molar had been less than twenty minutes before. The flavor of copper coated her mouth a second time, and nauseated, she spat again. But lost teeth and an upset stomach were the least of Lynea’s worries.

    She must get her sister Corinne to safety.

    Leafy trees rose like sentinels in the pouring rain, blocking their path. Darkness had come early due to the summer storm, and pea-sized hail littered the ground. Hand in hand, she and Cori skidded over the treacherous bits of ice, knowing they must hurry. Briars tore at their ankles and at the long dresses they were required to wear, hindering their progress. Lightning split the sky overhead, illuminating a trail at the foot of a hill. These woods were full of danger, but nothing could be as dangerous as the reverend.

    • Sherry says:

      I think this is a suspense/thriller genre with a desperate tone. I think this is a story about the girl fighting for freedom and escaping from an authoritative, oppressive situation that is accepted by most people in her society.

    • traceyannemccartney says:

      Genre: MG Adventure
      Tone: serious but with lighter moments included
      Plot: Lynea has been living in a Christian reform school. She has been abused too long and wants to return to her original home with her sister. Story follows the two girls journey home.

    • Maddy says:

      genre: fantasy future
      tone: suspense
      plot: mc and her sister are in a game of hide and seek competition to the death.

    • Justyna says:

      G: YA
      T: Serious
      P: Leafy and her sister lost their parents and were sent to an orphanage run by christian church. The abuse is getting worse, MC and her sister have to run for their lives.Reverend is in pursue as he has to keep everything quiet.

  2. Ellen_Brock says:

    Social normalities had no business dictating the behavior of Chesbyn Addamus. He always did what he pleased whenever it pleased him, cam and went at his own discretion, and indulged in his full spectrum of emotions.

    The folk of Havenhearth called him a trouble maker. Chesbyn had no problem with making trouble when needed, though he certainly had no love for it. They called him an odd-child. Could he help it if his passions were for reading and exploring, and not the many fine uses of oak and iron? They called him attention-seeker. He never cared for attention, and he would often go out of his way to avoid it. The Havenfolk were so busy thinking of trivial ways to define him, they never considered how he might define himself.

    “Imagine I’m something new. Something you’ve never heard of before. I’m unique. I am Chesbyn Addamus.”

    “How nice for you Ches. Too bad it won’t help you today,” said Bryndel. She gobbled down her venison stew, only pausing long enough to make snide remarks. How anyone could eat with such fervor and remain as petite as her was a wonder.

    • Sherry says:

      First impression is that this is historical fiction with a willful or non-conformist tone, to it could be in modern times with a humorous tone… not exactly sure. I think the behaviors that the folks consider odd and outside of social normalities will be exactly what the town needs and is what will endear Chesbyn Addamus to them.

    • Jeannie Hall says:

      Genre: Historical; maybe Action/Adventure
      Tone: Light
      Basic plot: Chesbyn doesn’t mean to get caught up in trouble but repeated does. But one of his adventures will make his the man he’s always wanted to be.

    • Justyna says:

      G: YA adventure
      T: Light
      P: Chesbyn doesn’t need acceptance from anyone. He’s his own master. He doesn’t care what others think of him, yet it wouldn’t hurt if they at least tried to understand him. They judged him by their own standards. It all changes when they realize that Chesbyn and his abnormality can save Havenheart.

  3. Ellen_Brock says:

    Gracie Peden had already put in a full day’s worth of work by the time Sonny lowered her down on the tobacco setter and began to rip open the earth. Her body, exhausted, beyond complaint, worked in unison with the machine, as essential to its purpose as the carousel spinning beside her. It was her mind that threatened the smoothness of the entire planting operation, the way it wandered through the shadows of blue and black, seeking the first fingers of sunlight to seep through the mapled woods. She knew not to look as gold seared a path across the field, and forced herself instead to concentrate on threading each tiny tobacco start into the setter’s grip, letting the flow of their promise slip from her hands into the future her husband scratched into the ground below. For a farm wife would not look, would not need to witness as dawn discovered steam lifting from the body in the grass beyond the field. For even in death, this was the way farm days were measured, one after the other, beginning at the end, seamless from the night before.

    • Robert Joseph Jean says:

      It seems very poetic. Has Gracie Peden been working over night when someone died in the grass? Does she know of the death? Is she ignoring it just to complete her task? Is it the body of her husband? It is not clear to me.

      • Robert Joseph Jean says:

        I forgot to guess the genre. I’m not sure if I can know based on this beginning, but if I were to hazard a guess I’d say it just might be horror fiction.

    • Jeannie Hall says:

      Genre: Amish Inspirational Romance
      Tone: Tense, a little forbidding
      Basic plot: Gracie is acclimating to her life as the wife of a farmer, even though the daily routines of that life – such as the death of an animal – trouble her greatly.

    • traceyannemccartney says:

      Genre: Drama, Romance
      Tone: Gritty, tense
      Plot: The farm has been Gracie’s way of life but that is all going to change. Her husband dies and as she struggles to keep the farm going another man enters her life and protects her from outside foes.

    • Justyna says:

      G; Urban fantasy
      T: serious
      P: Gracie feels trapped. This is not a life that she imagined for herself, this is a life that was chosen for her. She’s not afraid of hard work, that is not what bothers her. It’s the routine and lack of excitement what makes her feel empty inside. Gracie gets a chance to enter a new world, she doesn’t think twice about it and throws herself into an adventure of a life time.

  4. Ellen_Brock says:

    When the Sickle-tide runs, the sides will be drawn. The Salt-bloods will split and the blood of the peoples will wash into the sea. – The Oracle of Tannalan

    The murder of crows circled above the village, each caw shattering the silence of the valley.

    The village of Rivermore had perched on the steep-sided valley since the Settling. It was little more than a cluster of mud-and-chaff huts with a makeshift market on the half-moon for the goatherding families strewn across the valley. Children had run barefoot and tangle-haired among the huts, and mountain-ox chewed quietly, steaming in the chill air.

    It was gone.

    The huts had been set alight, the oxen taken. The charred stumps of a barn still smouldered. Crows squabbled for the glassy eyes from bodies strewn amid the wreckage. Overturned buckets, the hot smell of trampled plums from smashed baskets. Shreds of flags at the school-hut flapped in the breeze like tattered wings.

    Wilf’s legs buckled and his stomach heaved.

    “It can’t be,” said Wilf’s mother, Holly, breathless behind him. Her hand on his shoulder was cold, and shaking. “They’re not supposed to come this far from the sea. Not up to the Valley of the Sky.”

    • Sherry says:

      I think this is historical fantasy genre with a sober tone. Not sure if it is people or a creature coming from the sea. I think this is going to be a epic battle for survival against an overwhelming foe.

    • Robert Joseph Jean says:

      A mother and sun return to their village to see it completely destroyed as prophesied by the oracle. Are the salt-bloods the sea people who attacked the village? Have they been split into two disagreeing factions? Are Wilf and Holly going to make them live to regret it? The scene is clear and understandable.

      • Robert Joseph Jean says:

        Again, forgot to guess the genre. Have I even read the instructions? I agree with sherry. I think it is a fantasy epic, but I also think it is a people that attacked. the village based on the oracles’ prophesy and the comment made by Holly which suggests the sea people are forbidden to come this far into the valley either by agreement or by law.

    • Justyna says:

      G|: Historical fantasy
      T: Serious
      P: After the village of Rivermore was no longer, Wilf swore to seek revenge. Wilf and his fellow villagers determined to stop the attacks head towards the sea.

  5. Ellen_Brock says:

    The front door opened.

    “You can come back tomorrow Charlie after they’ve learned to behave.” The mother said from the kitchen.

    “OK Mrs. Stout,” the boy said, pulling the door closed. “I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” He shouted before breaking into a run.

    Concealed in the forest, a surprised Az-Rak switched off targeting mode and powered down his weapon as he watched the small human move away from the house. “No witnesses,” he told himself as a vestige of the Nolferrum Edict unexpectedly pricked his brain. “The targets are still inside, that’s what matters,” he reassured himself. Now, all he had to do was to wait for all human witnesses to be far enough away; to give him enough time to inspect the debris; to make sure the targets were obliterated.

    He scanned for other witnesses, but the boy was the only one near the isolated home. He could afford to wait a few minutes more to savor the final act, a trophy for his master, the perfect kill.

    In their bedroom, Mike Stout and his brother Noel sat silently. But the silence did not last long. “It’s all your fault,” Mike said, sitting on the edge of

    • Sherry says:

      I think this is thriller genre with a matter-of-fact tone. For me, this could go several ways: a cat and mouse story between an assassin and the victims, a prologue to the story where another character attempts to solve/prevent the crime and locate the assassin; or one where the assassin turns out to be an agent struggling to stop bad people.

    • Robert Joseph Jean says:

      I think the story could have opened with the boy at the door in the cross-hairs of the weapon as he walks away from the house. Then Az-Rak would shift his view in the reticle to Mrs stout as she chastises the boys. Then the scene could switch fully to the events in the house. Just my opinion and it’s fine the way it is.

      • Robert Joseph Jean says:

        I think the story could have opened with the boy at the door in the cross-hairs of the weapon as he walks away from the house. Then Az-Rak would shift his view in the reticle to Mrs stout as she chastises the boys. Then the scene could switch fully to the events in the house. Just my opinion and it’s fine the way it is. This reads like a thriller.

    • traceyannemccartney says:

      Genre: Fantasy
      Tone: revengeful
      Plot: The hostile killer (non-human) ends up befriending Mike, secrets are revealed which switches the strangers view – and he changes side. Story revolves around who is accountable for the lies and murders in the past. Why the division of different races?

    • Justyna says:

      G: YA/MG thriller
      T: Serious
      P: Mike and Noel manage to escape but from now on they are on the run. Az-Rak will not stop until all of his targets are death.

  6. Ellen_Brock says:

    Prowling the sky in search of prey a shadow forever damned to hunt; to hunger, sullies the starry night as it passes overhead. Its abode was horror. That violation of nature mortal men call nightmare. From its place in the sky it spied an innocent love with the predatory appetite of a shark sensing blood in the water and with the villainous intent of a murderer decided to kill it. Its misshapen form plummeted from the sky with the grace of a broken, tattered corpse. Its body creased, folded and collapsed upon itself – as only those who have dominion over other-worldly dimensions can – reducing its form so as to invade the sanctity of a small and quiet dwelling guarded by nothing save star-shine, moonlight and innocence.

    As the hateful visage made its perch on the mantelpiece of the fireplace its multitude of beady black eyes flickered and darted about until each one fastened upon the two victims of its fell desire, Paul Bishop and his beautiful wife Marie. Of the two Marie was closest to the blot of diabolical distortion yet she was as clueless to its presence as her husband and would continue in blind ignorance until it was too late.

    • Jeannie Hall says:

      Genre: Supernatural; Horror
      Tone: Tense
      Basic plot: This nightmarish creatures destroys one family after another and no one can figure out what’s causing these gruesome deaths.

    • Justyna says:

      G: Supernatural fantasy
      T: Serious
      P: The creature is is moving from village to village, town to town, city to city – leaving no one behind. Blood and death – his signature. Everywhere he appears families are dieing. There’s nothing and no one who can stop him. Until…

  7. Ellen_Brock says:

    The Stranger said she came to town to tell me the truth, but sometimes fifteen-year olds aren’t ready for the truth.

    It’s been over a year since she’s left and I’m still piecing together what happened between us.

    When she first came to Chelsea, I thought God was smiling down on me. I’d been long praying for a miracle, for someone or something to help me out of this run-down city, away from my overbearing Papi, and set me on my music career.

    The Stranger was someone I thought could finally share my song with, someone who could change my sad solo into a dazzling duet.

    That never happened.

    So today, when a letter arrived in the mail from her, I didn’t think I could take any more of her revelations.

    With letter in hand, I climbed onto my bed and reached for the shelf above my headboard. I placed aside an old middle school notebook and removed my mother’s Juan Gabriel record, the only piece of her my father saved from Colombia. I opened the sleeve of the album and slid the letter inside without reading it. Legs trembling, I dropped to the bed.

    • Robert Joseph Jean says:

      Genre: Teen Angst. Coming of age.
      Tone: Lonely. The narrator is resigned to disappointment.,
      Plot: The protagonists’ search for answers leads to a greater emotional connection with his/her music.

    • Justyna says:

      G: YA Adventure
      T: Not light but not to serious
      P: When MC doesn’t respond to the letter, the Stranger arrives again. The Stranger offers MC a carrier she dreamed of. Now she struggles as the competition in music business is huge.

  8. Ellen_Brock says:

    A single snake twirled around my index finger like a long green ribbon. The other snakes on my head nipped at the bobbing upper zipper on the back of my blue dress as I walked down the sidewalk surrounded by a mass of fellow New Yorkers but still felt more alone than ever. Was turning thirty this hard for humans too?

    The Center of Sorrow and Sisterhood or CSS blurred in the distance. The unassuming gray building with the lone black door at the front was both a savior and destroyer for young gorgons like me. On our thirtieth birthday, we either left the building through the front or were shuffled out through the back. I shifted the protective goggles on my face to ease the bite of the frosty late autumn air.

    All gorgons shared this fate. Thirty was the age we discovered if we’re cursed to turn living things into stone, and fated to live on the dreadfully drab and far away gorgon homeland, the Isle of Stone. I was due to make an appearance at the center earlier in the day but decided to spend my last possible hours soaking up as much of Brooklyn as possible.

    • Justyna says:

      G: Fantasy
      T: serious
      P: MC is send to The Isle of Stone. After few difficult few weeks she decides that her life is no longer worth living. She has two choices, kill herself and get this nightmare of a life over with or escape. She knew that a suicide is not an option, that lives only one thing to do. She does her best to free herself. When she manages to do that another problem arises. Now she has to come up with something that will stop her turning humans into a stone.

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