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


“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!***

Trick or Treat with a Pro Novel Editor – Win Free Editing!

***This Contest is over. Sorry! Still interested in free editing? Click here or follow my blog to get email updates about future contests.***

***Contest results are here.***

It’s almost Halloween! As grown-ups, we’re too old to get free candy (sad and unfair), but we’re not too old for grown-up prizes!

If you come trick or treating to my door (AKA the comment section) between now and midnight on October 31st, you will be in the running for some awesome prizes!


The Prizes

GRAND PRIZE: Free edit of your novel’s first 25,000 words.

SECOND PLACE: Free edit of your novel’s first 10,000 words.

THIRD PLACE: Free edit of your novel’s first 5,000 words.

PARTICIPANTS: Free critique of your query letter as a reply in the comment section.

How to Enter for Second and Third Place

Since this has gotten hundreds of views and only one entry (what???), I figure you guys must not have your query letters ready. So…for second and third place only, all you have to do is Tweet about the giveaway to enter (make sure you include my handle: @keytopservices so I can count your submission).

I will randomly choose the winner. You can Tweet up to 3 times per day.

How to Enter For the Grand Prize

Leave a comment with your query letter or a short pitch (if you’re self-publishing, you can use your back cover blurb). I will be judging the entries based on who impresses me the most. Consider this a practice run for your query.

*If you do NOT want your query to be public, you may email it to me:

The free query letter critique will be performed as a reply to your query in the comments section. The critique only applies to true query letters and back cover blurbs (not alternative/informal pitches).

You may delete your query letter after the contest ends if you choose to.

The winning entries will be announced on Friday along with an explanation as to why I found their query letters the most intriguing.

Prize Redemption

The Grand Prize, Second Place, and Third Place prizes must all be redeemed within one year of my announcing the winners or the prizes expire.

Due to already scheduled work, January will be the earliest the free edits can be performed. I advise scheduling your free edits as early as possible.

If there is a high number of entries, it may take me a week or more to provide all the query letter critiques.

Please Spread the Word!

Share this contest on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and beyond! I really appreciate it!


Valentine’s Day Giveaway: Win a Free 25 Page Novel Edit and Critique!

4681460753_2245d340c8I am very excited to announce my first (major) giveaway through my company Keytop, Inc.  Wooohooo!

I absolutely love (LOVE!) editing.  I feel so fortunate to get to wake up every morning to do something I love!  So I want to share that love with you!  And what better time of year to share the love than Valentine’s Day!  So I am super excited to announce:

Keytop Inc.’s Valetine’s Day Giveaway – February 7-14

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway with lots of ways to enter.  If I get a ton of entries, I will add more prizes as a reward (see below).  More entries, more winners!  So spread the word!  And don’t forget to come back to enter again (you can tweet up to twice per day).

3122875541_11bf6685c2The Prizes

Grand Prize (1 per 400 entries): A 25 page novel edit and critique!*

First Place (1 per 200 entries): Your choice: a free query letter critique or free 10 page edit and critique!

Second Place (1 per 100 entries): A 25% off coupon!

Participation Award (unlimited): A 10% off coupon! All you have to do is tweet about the contest at least once.

Click here to enter!

The winners will be announced here and on Twitter next Friday, February 15th. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to get in touch: ellen (at) keytopservices (dot) com

First Place and Grand Prize are reserved for new clients only. Prizes cannot be combined with any other giveaways, special deals, or offers. Prizes can be given as a gift to another person. Prizes must be used within one year of receipt. My prices/fees may change at any time without notice.

*25 double spaced pages, 1 inch margins, times new roman font (no cheating please).

P.S. I am always interested in guest bloggers or guest blogging. (:

About Me (Ellen Brock)


I’ve loved books since the day I learned to read. I also love animals (especially dogs and rats), hot sauce, paper crafts, and cooking.  I own an editing company called Keytop, Inc., where I edit both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts for established and aspiring authors.  I also work as an independent contractor with several publishing companies. For more information about my editing services, click here.