Pacing workshop and opening paragraphs

Good morning, everyone. This morning we were supposed to being the pacing workshop. Unfortunately, the flu bug has taken up residence in the Hoyt household and Sarah is down sick. She asked me to let everyone know that she will start the workshop next Sunday. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have homework for you.

Pacing is more than just how your plot progresses. It’s how your plot begins. If you don’t grab your reader and have them wanting to turn the page within the first couple of paragraphs, it doesn’t matter how well-paced the rest of your plot is. That’s especially true with short stories.

So here’s your assignment. Post the first two paragraphs of your current work in progress, or of what you are currently editing, in the comment section below. Sarah will look over them when she’s feeling better. The rest of the Mad Genii may also pop in to take a look as well.

The comments are now open!


  1. First two paragraphs of novel wip, first book of a planned nine book set

    I had loved her too much and it had killed me. Oh she hadn’t pulled the trigger, and I hadn’t thought that saving her life would cost me my own, but even if I had I knew then that I would have still done it. I would have still protected her with my life, even at the cost of my own, because even as I lay dying, I would not have let her be here in my place.
    I could still taste the bitter-sweetness of her blood drying in my mouth. When she’d realized that I was dying she’d done the only thing she thought would save my life. Our love had cut both ways; it had been written plainly in her tears and actions after I had fallen to the ground. But I had not marked her as mine, and though her blood had dulled the pain, I had still slipped away. I was floating above myself, loosing bits and pieces of time as she dragged me into the woods, weeping. Then I was watching as she buried me in a shallow grave, I hadn’t seen her dig it, I don’t know why I was watching, why my body was even there to be buried, but there was no one here to ask. She left, weeping, my heart longing to hold her and comfort her as the world went black around me.

    (may be double post, if so delete one of them)

  2. First two paragraphs. (Last month I was thinking “hey…I’ve almost got this thing done”….and it turned around and began to do battle with me. What I had thought was “done” is the barest beginnings…and ephemeral at that. All is subject to revision. Yet here is what I currently have.

    Yggdrysl Highway: Book One. Chapter one, paragraph one and two.

    PAIN! The pain. The old trucker had been limping out to his truck. He was feeling his age and using his cane to help him across the potholed gravel parking lot when..he saw someone messing with his truck. Several someones it looked like. He yelled at them and started to run forward when he stepped in a pothole, tripped and almost fell. About that time someone stepped out from between trucks and rushed him.

    THE PAIN!…it was as if his back had a knife in it.Actually it did. The guy who had rushed him had just put it there. Mostly in his shoulder though as he’d stumbled just at the right moment. That pothole might have saved his life.

  3. Yuki Yamaguchi scuffed along in her school slippers a measured two steps behind Senda Sensei, head bowed, shoulders slumped. Yuki was a new student. That placed her at the bottom of the social hierarchy. She was doing her level best to pretend she belonged there.

    She’d arrived at Sumiyoshi Girls Preparatory Academy halfway through the school year because she was really bad at pretending about things like that. But she was also tired of being the squeaky hinge, the fly in the ointment, the nail begging to get pounded down.

  4. Here’s the start of a SciFi WIP I started in ’94, but haven’t quite decided if I’ll leave it as a stand-alone or continue the sage into one or two more books:
    “Mayday! Mayday!” The co-pilot of the DC 3 cargo plane shouted into the receiver as gale-force winds tossed the heavy craft around like a ping-pong ball. Jagged flashes of light ripped the black clouds apart. Rain streamed across the windows, making it impossible to see a thing beyond the nose. The pilot attempted to descend below the storm.
    In the cabin, Alexander Stern peered through the bleary window to his left. Shards of light slashed through the dark wall of cotton around the plane. He tore his eyes away to study his fellow passengers, all co-workers heading to a remote island where his construction firm was building an exclusive resort. Every face mirrored his own expression as their hands gripped the arms of their seats. A bolt of blinding light drew his attention back to the window. A horrific shudder replaced the fearful wrenching in his gut as another lightning bolt struck the engine. The sparks burst into fire. Fierce orange flames defied the rain.

    – Susan

  5. I’m going to cheat, claiming short paragraphs, and include the three word third paragraph of my current WIP’s Prologue:

    Rue Roulle, Paris, France – In The Near Future
    Wrong apartment!” Pierre shouted as he slammed open the surveillance van door parked on Rue Roulle, “Evie, you must stop them!”
    A Friday afternoon, cloudy and quiet. Wiping sweat, Evie thought the summer air was a little more humid than usual. She frowned at Pierre, wondering how his iconically French long flowing hair managed to stay dry in the heat and humidity, “Looks like it’s getting ready for another downpour. Lucky I brought my brolly in with me today.” She half lifted her umbrella to show him.
    “There’s no time!”

  6. Second attempt to post, something weird with logging into wordpress while commenting, it doesn’t appear as if my first comment took.

    First few paragraphs of my current WIP’s prologue:

    Rue Roulle, Paris, France – In The Near Future
      “Wrong apartment!” Pierre shouted as he slammed open the surveillance van door parked on Rue Roulle, “Evie, you must stop them!”
      A Friday afternoon, cloudy and quiet. Wiping sweat, Evie thought the summer air was a little more humid than usual. She frowned at Pierre, wondering how his iconically French long flowing hair managed to stay dry in the heat and humidity, “Looks like it’s getting ready for another downpour. Lucky I brought my brolly in with me today.” She half lifted her umbrella to show him.
      “There’s no time!”

    1. Sorry for the double-posting… now if only there was a way to edit/delete posts as a user …

  7. The sun was setting. As Evan Sinclair watched, the tombstone shadow of his building was growing, crossing Central Park West and darkening the path around the park.
    She’d always loved sunsets.

  8. For the heck of it: the opening of Kaziklu Bey

    My father used to say a prince’s crown made a man as much a slave as an iron collar. At the time this confused me: how could a man as powerful as my father consider himself a slave?

    Now, though, now I saw the bittersweet reality of those words in the gilded collar I had made for myself. I could no longer be merely Vlad Draculea, but must be King of Romania and balance each act, each decision against the welfare of my newly acquired lands and people. That I could have made no other choice if I wished to live mattered little, and in truth, I would do the same again, forge those same links in my chains once more.

  9. (Amazingly qualifying as work actually making progress.)

    Iemar slept, mid-day, sprawled on top of a single sheet, clothed, with one steel-toed boot on the floor and her arm over her face to block the light. In one fist, even while asleep, she held her future.
    It was a scepter, a rod as long as her arm, all smooth technology and blinking indicators, primed with her blood and thus tuned to her genetics and hers alone. Worth lives to obtain, she might have left it lying in the street and no one could have taken it. It was her charge and her future.

  10. Chicago swallowed the last Cleveland AI whole. Pitiful thing, weak.
    But tasty. The feuding lesser AIs had been nice little snacks, better even than Detroit. A couple had put up vigorous fights, but in the end they simply hadn’t had the computational power to win.

  11. From Hurbis: A Novel of Azdhag Origins.

    Maker Seeri glanced around at the ancient reception chamber’s stone walls and carved wooden benches as she waited to meet King Laski and obtain the final approval necessary to begin Project Star-Strong. Studying the room helped the reptile relax a little, taming her nervous energy. How many generations of petitioners had stood on these ancient floors? Almost a thousand years of talon-scratches had turned the soapstone flags grey, and Seeri carefully lifted her forefoot talons, resting her weight on her palms and grip-toes. She heard a door open and felt a puff of hot, dry-season air from outside blow into the chamber, carrying the scents of fire-bloom trees and dust. The wind made the hangings on the wall flutter, distracting the waiting scientist. Someone stepped heavily on the light-colored wood of the dais at the front of the chamber and she whipped her head back in time to drop into a bow as King Laski entered the chamber.

    The larger male reptile lumbered across the dais and settled onto the padded bench. “You may rise,” he grated, voice harsh with years and from drinking the prickle-bark extract needed to keep his joint-pain at bay. Laski’s neck-spines, tipped with stainless steel, glittered in the dim lights, as did the silver woven into the collar of his light robe. The grey-and-green blotched male arranged his muscular tail to suit him. “You have a request, Maker Seeri?”

  12. Eh, the WIP hates me, so here’s the first two paragraphs of WIP +1:

    Her field kit wiggled happily along the branch. Without taking her eyes off her notes, she grabbed it before it could fall sixty meters to the forest floor. It stopped moving, but stealthy rustling noises still came from it. With a sigh of aggravation, she stuffed her notes inside her ragged shirt and unlocked her kit. Reaching inside, she hauled out a piece of silvery dandelion fluff with button eyes.

    She looked at the protein bar it clutched in tiny, toothpick fingers, rolled her eyes, and pried it out of its grip. The dandelion fluff scrunched its button eyes, threw out thin arms and legs in stiffened protest, and let out a shriek

  13. I had three rules in the Red House. First, I wouldn’t do no dog. Second, I wouldn’t do no stinking zommie. And third, I sure as shit wouldn’t do no God damn smoke.

    Dogs, well they weren’t even human no more, not since they got bit anyways. The saloon girls over the road would take their money though. Those girls over the road opened their skinny little legs to most anything with a pulse. Well, we weren’t like that in the Red House. We didn’t do no biters, and that included zommies, who could be some of the most disgusting creatures on God’s Earth.

  14. From a very rough WIP:

    The juices ran down my chin and the tomato closest to the hunk of vat meat I’d just torn off the skewer with my teeth left its own wet mark on my face. It’s hard to chew and grin at the same time. My husband, Tobias Mallory, sitting across from me at JoJo’s Kabobs was doing a lot better at eating without looking like a savage. He says it’s just more experience, which I suppose is fair since he is fourteen years older than me. From the smile in his eyes, he doesn’t mind.

    I swung my legs back and forth under the chair as we ate and watched the wall of Saddie’s Deli stream the view of Saturn’s Rings from one of our navigation satellites. My bodyguards block the scene entirely when they pace by. The view is better from inside Saddie’s where you can seeing the rings spread out into the horizon before you as if you are entirely outside the habitat. Tobias gets to see that in person whenever he wants to, but I have to stay behind heavy radiation shielding all the time. That’s one of my marriage contract sub-clauses. Protect the ovaries.

    My rings are a massive river of ice with some less valuable other stuff thrown in. For the most part, we harvest the ice from our mineral rights claims and sell it further out system or sometimes if the price fluctuations are right even back inner system. Everyone needs water for life support systems and if you go ahead and crack the bonds the hydrogen and oxygen are pretty useful too. That’s why the original claims to the rings are worth so much now and why I’m was legally married to Tobias back three and a half years ago when I turned nine. Or at least that was part of it. A whole lot of people dying, mostly related to me, was the other part.

  15. This is the opening of draft 2 of WIP

    Twenty-three. It took twenty-three boxes and three people to move one person from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Unknown, Texas. Melody Carr knew she didn’t have this many boxes when she left home ten years ago. She definitely didn’t have this many boxes when she moved from Brown University to the University of North Carolina for medical school.
    “Little sister, where did you get this much shit?” Mel watched her brother Micah hefting a particularly heavy box of medical text books over the threshold of the apartment over their family’s bakery. “I didn’t have this much stuff when I moved last week and I was moving a five year old too.”
    Melody made a face at him as she set her own weighty box down. “I’m a girl. There’s a line in the girl handbook that we’re supposed to have a lot of stuff. At least I coughed up the money to have someone else move it all down here for us. We just have to unload. Plus you barely lived in your apartment in New York. Someone was a workaholic.”

  16. Depends on the exact definition of WIP. I have a few that are slowly moving forward. Here’s the first to paragraphs of one of them.

    “Sorry,” Dog said, but the Commander didn’t move from his position on the ancient grey tiles of the balcony. “I was sent by the Cardinal to…” There was still no reaction. The other man remained supine, as still and quiet as the sword by his side, as the Truth and Justice between his outstretched arms. The engraved, silver bell, hardly larger than a thimble, hung from a foldable stand. The mallet lay precisely by it’s side.

    Dog glanced around. Rousing the Commander from some sort of Holy trance didn’t seem like a sensible course of action– the Cardinal didn’t like to be kept waiting but the Commander’s wrath was somewhat more immediate. With most men, Dog wouldn’t have hesitated but the Commander’s temper was as legendary as his devotion to Acario. And should he be bested, there was still the small matter of a thousand Paladins of God. Though, there were considerably less than a thousand Paladins, if the rumours were correct, and the Commander’s standing was in question as well. With a small shrug Dog carefully circled around the unmoving Commander, almost touching him in the cramped space of the balcony, and bent down to retrieve the man’s long, silver blade. Holding it gingerly, as if Acario Himself might decide to show what he thought of the turn of events, he stepped back and placed it in a corner near the door.

  17. Here are the first two paragraphs of my current WIP

    I wasn’t the last person on earth, it just felt that way. Sitting on the ledge of the cathedral’s bell tower, like a modern day Quasimodo six stories above the street. My arm was draped across the ugliest of the gargoyles. I looked out over the city, Scanning each street, building, or back alley for signs of life, hoping to see smoke, moving cars, recent construction, anything. But the city looked deader than the bodies in the church below.
    I could easily see what the city used to be like, full of movements, never still. Cars and people rushing everywhere, horns blaring, music spilling out of the bars and taverns, traffic lights, and neon lights, and street lights all mixing together to create a canvas of beautiful colors. The smells of fresh bread, car exhaust, and the ozone of electric motors, all mingled to form the sweet aroma of progress and comfort. I could almost taste it on my tongue, I wanted it so bad.


  18. Opening of my WIP (this was also posted to Evil Editor’s openings a while back, in case it looks familiar):

    Niko saw his first Shadow the moment he set foot in Aldemyr.

    He followed the other passengers off the steamship gangplank onto the harbor landing and there it was, a grey filmy thing scuttling beneath a heavy cart.

    “Out of the way.” His little sister, Sandy, shoved him from behind.

    “All right, all right.” Niko shifted his grip on his bags and walked up the crowded sidewalk, keeping pace with the cart, his eyes riveted on the shadowy thing as it rippled along the street. At first, he’d thought it was part of the cart’s shadow; he could see the cobblestones through it. But then it jumped forward and danced beneath the horse’s clopping feet. Niko shivered in the summer air.

  19. The explosion reminded Victor Hanson of a fire cracker going off, until the concussion wave blew out his living room window and the shaking ground knocked him off his feet and tumbled the books out of his bookshelf.

    “Son of a bitch,” Victor murmured as he pulled himself back to his feet, thankful that he hadn’t been standing in front of his living room window. He stared at the shards of glass sticking up like deadly grass blades from his carpet. The house across the street was lying in bits and scattered pieces in the street, while black smoke and flames roared upwards. He shook his head. Why was it so hard for Stew to figure out that he shouldn’t replace his own damn batteries? Ten times in as many years. It was getting to be a habit for him. Of course, Stew couldn’t really remember the incidents, given that they always killed him each time he did it.

  20. First novel, and in a planned series. I need to revise this intro.

    Morgan Bright pushed a hank of stick brown hair out of her face and reclipped the metal barrette she was using to keep it out of her way. The rain was somewhere between mist, fog and drizzle. Charlie would have called it crap. Whatever it was called, it was slowly dripping cold water inside her coat’s collar. Her coat was warm and heavy, come summer it would be a beast to wear, but she was used to that. The water ran down the furrows of her back, tracing an odd zig-zagging pattern over her skin. It itched.
    She shifted slightly, trying to adjust the collar of the coat. It was a futile effort and she knew it. The long, faded black duster wasn’t designed for comfort, but rather for protection. It was a custom job, between the layers of fabric were layers of Kevlar and—of all things—actual titanium chain mail. The coat weighed thirty pounds easily, and it had saved her life more times than she could count. It was, almost assuredly something her 115lbs couldn’t and shouldn’t carry with the cheerful regularity that she did, especially not into battle. She had the build of a dancer—had, in fact, wanted to be one in more innocent days.
    She carried on her person a literal arsenal of weaponry, six knives, two handguns, a sawed off shotgun loaded with Dragon’s Breath, four blessed crosses, holy water, salt, and extra ammunition. She jingled softly when she walked, but that didn’t actually matter. It wasn’t really possible to sneak up on a vampire. They could always hear you coming, so why bother to be quiet?
    Besides, they’d be able to smell her. She practically bathed in wild roses and verbena. It pretty much screamed hostile intent to vampires, but it masked the scent of her blood unless the wound was fresh and bleeding. That was, she’d found, a little more important. Besides, she’d never had any reason for civility with vampires.

  21. I know I’m late to the party — life keeps happening. And I probably should be off lookin at the several lessons in Amanda’s workshop that I’ve fallen behind on …
    But first, the opening paragraphs of the epic-fantasy WIP:

    The wind howled down the mountain, attacking him with ice crystals that tore exposed skin like swarms of tiny knives. At times it almost seemed to actively oppose his progress, first seeking to hurl him from the narrow ledge beside the frozen waterfall, then swirling around and trying to drive him bodily back down the path. Not that he thought of it in such terms. He didn’t think of it at all. He merely pulled the tattered furs closer around his scarred face and trudged on.
    The ledge opened into a broad ridge-saddle. The slope was gentler here, an easy path along the nearer bank of the ice-clogged watercourse. The sun shone through a momentary opening in the clouds and he ducked his head, throwing up his hands in their frayed and mismatched mittens to shield his eyes from the dazzling gleam of sunlight on the undisturbed expanse of snow. Turning his head caused his gaze to fall on the shadow of a small erosion cave. The opening beckoned, promising at least momentary shelter from the bitter wind.

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