“Worst First” Contest Open for Submissions!

Before we begin, I am beyond excited to introduce you to the judge of the “Worst First” contest!

Jillian Kent writes historical fiction and is represented by literary agent Rachelle Gardner.

Jillian has generously agreed to offer GREAT PRIZES to the first and second place winners! She’ll critique the first page of the winner’s manuscript, and the second place winner gets a signed copy of her debut novel.

So, without further ado, here’s Jillian…


Hi Everyone!
Christi has been kind enough to invite me here so I want to answer as many questions for you as I can. So ask away. Nothing is off limits, but I may choose not to answer it if I think it’s something that I shouldn’t put out there for the whole world to read.
There was a combination of things that occurred in my life that led to the love of historical romance. I discovered the poem, “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes at a young age. You can read it if you are not familiar with it on my website at www.jilliankent.com It’s in the public domain.
I went to England the first semester of my senior year of college. Loved all of Great Britain. I lived and studied with other students from Bethany College where I went to school.

I read historical romance novels in my twenties and said, “I could do that.”
I am a research addict. I struggle a lot to stop researching and keep writing. Now that I don’t have the freedom to write at a slow pace (I’m really slow), I have to let some of the research go and just write. When I get to something I don’t know I leave spaces and notes to myself in a different font or color. I’m still trying to find the balance.
The way to publication has not been easy. I decided to begin studying the craft when my first child was born and that was twenty-one years ago. You must reach deep inside yourself and find out what it is you want related to writing. WHAT DO YOU WANT?  Do you want money, fame, a life-long career? This is a question only you can answer. I have to tell you that once you get published it’s a very busy time. You’ll have twice as much to do as you think you will.

So what are you thinking about today?


If you have any questions for Jillian simply leave them in the comments section of this post. I know for a fact she’s generous and kind with writing information, so please, ask away!

Now, on to the “Worst First” contest!

Entrants shall create, on purpose, the worst opening line to a novel.

One sentence (fifty word limit).

The use of commas, semi-colons, ellipsis, and/or hyphens is highly encouraged.  

All genres accepted.

Let’s keep it clean. No sex, extreme violence, or cursing.

Enter your sentence in the comments section of this post.

Entry deadline is Saturday at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Winner will be announced when Jillian completes judging.   

(The “Worst First” was inspired by this annual writing contest.)



47 thoughts on ““Worst First” Contest Open for Submissions!

  1. Jullian, I don’t have a question, only a comment. I admire the steps that have taken you from the research page to the agent (one of the best), to publication. Congrats on your debut novel !

    I love this post, Christi. I tried to come up with something terrible and this is the best I could do. Can I try again later? I mean can we enter more than once. That is just in case I stumble onto something truly rotten later.

    Okay here goes:

    For two full minutes I looked down at the text from my granddaughter and didn’t understand a single thing. I need to do a 411 for this terrible 911 situation. I need the cell phone EMS as my BFF. Why don’t they write a cell phone text language for dummies?

  2. Florence,

    Thanks for stopping by and giving Jillian such a lovely comment.

    I want to clarify you that you can only enter the first sentence (you’ve got four, so only your first one will count) Is that what you meant?

    I think you can enter more than one sentence…the more the merrier! And you have until Saturday at 11:59pm (PST) to enter so you’ve got plenty of time 🙂


      • A run-on-and-on is terrible … Yes? Okay. I have the first one redone:

        For two full minutes I looked down at the text from my granddaughter but didn’t understand a single thing and realized I needed to do a 411 for this terrible 911 situation, although first someone should give me cell phone text for dummies, or I’ll have to call Cell-EMS my BFF.

        And I have the nerve to give you another … but that’s for tomorrow 🙂

  3. Hi Jillian! Nice to meet you and congrats on your debut novel!

    Lets see, questions questions…

    Okay, here’s one that a little complex.

    Once you began querying, did you get an agent with the first project you ever queried, or did you end up ‘shelving’ that first one and move on to a second one? And did you get feedback and compliments from prospective agents, who at the same time passed on your book?

    So that was actually two… but they were related… 🙂

    As for worst opening sentence… I’m working on one in my head, but I’ll have to come back and post it because it’s almost 100 degrees here and I still have stalls to clean and horses to bring in. *sweats with anticipation*

  4. Jillian,

    First, thanks so much for being here! And, you didn’t think I would just sit back and let everyone else ask all the questions :), so here’s mine…

    How did finally know/realize your work was good enough to send out?

    What are the steps you took to make sure your work was ready? Like, how many beta readers went through it? How many drafts did you revise?

    Put another way, how did you know you were ready to quit going over your manuscript yet again (and again, and again…) and start querying?


  5. Hi there Artemis Grey!
    I grew up cleaning horse stalls, lugging water buckets, and sweating with the best of them. Are there still giant horse flys out there. We used to call them blood suckers.

    I did not get an agent easily. And I certainly didn’t get an agent with my first project. I have to say that my first agent experience didn’t work out the way I had anticipated either and we parted ways. I had sold my series myself and found myself agentless which was the best thing that could have happened to me. I immediately e-mailed my mentor, James Scott Bell, and he directed me to Rachelle. I e-mailed Rachelle and after talking on the phone for a couple days she graciously agreed to take me on. I made it clear that I was looking for an agent to grow my career and not just help with this series.

    So I’m your living proof that you can sell your own work to an editor and it’s easier to get representation after you’ve made it that far, but it certainly isn’t easy. I’m looking forward to your “Worst First.” 🙂


  6. Christi! Good Morning!

    Okay girl. Where’s breakfast? Or brunch? I’m not picky. 🙂 And it’s a pleasure to be here. I love sharing what I’ve learned along the way. And the contest idea is great. I’m very curious to know what genre everyone is writing, so I encourage all participants to share that if they want to.

    Christi, you asked, “How did finally know/realize your work was good enough to send out?”

    When you’ve worked on it so much that you can’t stand it anymore then you might want to go ahead and send it out. 🙂 And when you do that I would simply hope for the best but prepare for rejection. I’m not a pessimist, but I’ve been around long enough to know that rejection is part of the process. I keep a copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul close by at all times. It provides a list in the back of the book regarding how many times famous writers were rejected. It helps.

    All of us need to remember that selling our work is a business. We need to educate ourselves to the very best of our abilities and that’s not only the writing side but the business side. When your manuscript is done to the best of your ability and it appears professional, spell checked, etc. then send it out.

    When I was learning to write and studying the craft my crit group was very useful. But beware the crit groups can be both a blessing and a curse. I don’t say the curse part flippantly. It’s just that sometimes beginning writers rely heavily on others opinions until they learn to trust themselves. In that process you can loose your own personal voice and style trying to please others. Don’t do that. It’s your story and your voice. Protect it.

    Great questions, Christi,


  7. Jillian, there are most certainly still ‘bloodsuckers’ around! In fact, my sister just karate kicked one that was loafing on a stall door… meanwhile, I was soaking my feet with the water hose, er, I mean, I was filling water buckets…

    Good to know about the agent! Not that I wish a hard journey to publication on anyone, but it somehow never gets old hearing that you’re not alone in the struggling process 🙂

  8. Okay, here’s my worst first:

    “I know, right, like, OMG WTF, I mean, seriously, ROFLMFAO, but whatevs, like, if she wants to be, like, Kimber’s D.U.F.F. I’m not, hey can you check it for a sec, I got a wrinkled old biddy on my six,” Kelsey ducked into the soup aisle.

  9. Artemis,

    Those blood-suckers used to really splat. Keep your feet in the water and douse your head while you’re at it. Way too hot!

    As far as worst first lines? All I can say is . . . you’re a contender. 🙂

    Keep cool!

  10. Jullian, I your process from research to novel is similar to mine. You have proven that with determination it can be possible to get an agent and published. Congratulations on your debut novel. I wish you lots of success.

    I didn’t make up my worst sentence. It was actually the first sentence from the first draft of one of my WIPs. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. At least the current version is a million times better! Here it is a whopping lengthy 50 words:

    I was sitting down to an early breakfast — my eyes half-closed, head pounding, muscles sore from the long walk yesterday — my sister and her husband joined me when there was a knock at the door: a loud, business-like knock that made my sister scream and my stomach turn.

  11. Thanks Haley,
    Although no one can guaranteee you publication I strongly believe that perisistance is the only way to get there. And you will need so much more tenacity after you get published. You just keep on keeping on. 🙂

    Fascinating 50 words.


  12. Hi, Jillian. Your post is so interesting. My question is about research. Do you have suggestions on how to become a strong historical researcher? I love reading historical fiction, and would like to try writing it. Thanks, and thanks to Christie for this opportunity!

  13. Hi Monica,
    Good question. There isn’t just one way to become an excellent researcher. The most important thing is what I call Sherlock Holmes inquisitiveness. 🙂 You have to have the drive to search. Because I write during the Regency at this point in my career there are no living people to interview. So my librarians are my best friends. When in doubt ask your librarian. I’m always on the look out for good movies that may help me understand the culture of the time. Pride and Predjudice for me and other such movies. The history channel could suck all my writing time away from me. 🙂 Another is the music and literature of the time. Lots of fun there! And of course we have access to so many things with the internet now that it makes research much easier. But never just take for granted that all the information on the internet is correct. I think we all know that there are inconsistencies there. Check and double check your resources. One of my favorite sites is this: http://bethlemheritage.wordpress.com/

    I conduct a lot of research related to the mental health treatment of the Regency. This is an excellent site for information as well as ideas. Now you all go out and find one new research site today. Hope that helps.

  14. According to my watch, which I like to refer to as my miniature chartreuse chronograph, it was the best, and perhaps the superlative, (even the transcendent?), of times; and simultaneously (although I don’t know if this is by coincidence or not) it was the worst–most atrocious–of times.

  15. Congrats on the book! I would love to hear more about your research process. I’m struggling with that myself, as some of my book takes place during the Civil War. Despite the wealth of stuff online and in the library, I really feel like I need to see things in person to really write about them. Did you have any favorite source materials? Or general tips of things that were most important in your research? Thanks!

  16. my miniature chartreuse chronograph? Oh that’s good Wendy! Exceptional.

    I understand the need to see things in person. I’m not sure where you live but Gettysburg is awesome if you can get there. Also, and now I’m going to let you do some research. 🙂 I sat with a gentleman at the ACFW awards last year (hint: the Zondervan table) who’d written an awesome Civil War story according to editor Sue Brower. I suggest you go research and see if you can come back here and let me know the name of the book and author. Then go find his website and see if you can interview him. I bet he could help ALOT! Now go forth and research. And if you choose not to accept this mission . . .

  17. Hi Jillian, I hope your Zumba class was fast and fun. I really liked your post and I also liked the line you used to reply to someone. ‘You just have to keep on keeping on.’ BTW, Congrats on your debut novel!
    My question; I was wondering if you have any regrets about your writing career? Do you wish you could have done anything differently?

    Hi Christi! What a great contest! My first line…
    It was a dark and stormy night.

    I’m going to go think up something more original now.

  18. Hi Trish!
    I’m in my first Zumba class with a dozen teenagers. I can’t begin to do half the moves they do but I’m hanging in there. Tonight was only my second class. I’ll sleep well tonight. 🙂 Thanks for the congrats on the book. It’s still unreal to me but the amount of work I’m doing on book 2 reminds me I still have a lot to ahead of me. And speaking of a lot to do that leads right into your question about regrets.

    Hmm. I think because it seemed for years that I was so far away from getting published that I didn’t work as hard as I could have to produce more product. I wished I hadn’t slaved over book 1 in this series so much but would have written all 3. But then maybe I wouldn’t have been prepared to sell book one. It’s so hard to know. I believe strongly that God does have a plan and HE expects our full participation. So I think I could have set realistic goals and finished more books over the years but I also had my hands full with family issues so I guess I did the best I could do given the circumstances.

    I think it’s really important not to waste time. I wrote my first book by writing one page a day for a year. If I’d done that every year I would have probably grown faster as a writer. Looking back over the years I wish I would have been more organized and set regular and realistic goals.

    And yes, you better come up with a new worse first line. 🙂

  19. Monica, you are most welcome.

    Wendy, you did it! It was indeed, An Eye for Glory by Karl Bacon. You should see if you can pick his brain. For me personally I use The Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America for Regency information. I wonder if they or other writing organizations have a specialty loop just for the Civil War. I would think there is one somewhere. I also wonder if you can’t get to Gettysburg, etc. if you could search their online stores for information. I know when we were thery I brought back the tour on tape. Hope that helps.

  20. Hey Jillian! It’s nice to meet you! Congrats on your book! You research a lot like me. I’m all about the research!

    Here’s my line:

    So,…wait; what was I going to, say…;I have no idea, wait…I do…,no; yes, huh; I give up…So,…what?

  21. Hi Jillian,

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your debut novel! When you mentioned that people had to decide what they wanted from their writing: fame, money or career, I had to stop and think – for a couple of days! I never thought about those things happening for me, not that I wouldn’t appreciate any of them. :o) I mean, I love to write and I do want to be published and if someone who I query wants to pay me, well then all the better. And if someone asked me to do it again – awesome. And if I got a call from someone telling me that they wanted to make a movie out of my novel – well, duh, sure. I wouldn’t fight them on it.

    What I do truly want from my writing is for a reader to get lost amongst the pages of a story I’ve written. Knowing that my words – my story, took them into another world -unable to tear themselves away from the lives of characters I created.

    My questions for you are: How many drafts/edits/rewrites did you have to go through before you felt comfortable that the last edit was it? And did you put the manuscript away for a short period of time before you jumped in and made changes?

    Worst First Line: Sick for days and wanting take out, Shelley was shocked when she got a recording from Pizza House telling her that the call couldn’t be connected until she changed out of her ratty robe, showered and put on some make-up.

  22. What fun! Thanks for the excuse to take a break from trying to write something good. Here’s my entry

    What happens is they all die in the end, but before they do, Robeast and Romanna conceive the child of their unbridled love, who would have been destined to avenge them all, if only he had lived to hear the story that unfolds here.

  23. Hi there Jamie,
    Thanks for the congrats! And watch out for getting too bogged down in research and it preventing you from getting the writing done. That happens to me. 🙂 What a first worse line you’ve got there kiddo. Another contender. 🙂

  24. Hi Karen,
    You said, What I do truly want from my writing is for a reader to get lost amongst the pages of a story I’ve written. Knowing that my words – my story, took them into another world -unable to tear themselves away from the lives of characters I created

    That’s a wonderful thing to want from your writing and I think everyone who strives for publication would agree. It’s not wrong to want fame, or money, or other things but they will probably bring less joy than what you mentioned. And who doesn’t need a little extra money? But I’m here to tell you that after you pay your agent and taxes there isn’t a whole lot left but it’s still nice to have. And there’s always the hope of a big contract or movie deal but if we’re realistic that ‘s something that may not happen, you can’t hang your hat on it. 🙂

    About the drafts and edits I would encourage you to read how I answered Christi’s question. In addition to that I would suggest you read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print [Paperback]
    Renni Browne (Author)
    Dave King(Author)

    This will help you know when you’ve done enough. My editor suggested I review again as well before I get into my final revisions. It’s one of those books that all serious writers need.

    I always set the novel aside if possible. I think a month is ideal but each writer has their preferences. Hope that helps.

  25. She’s named “Jackie Collins (Snodgrass)” because she looked like writer Jackie Collins’ actor sister Joan Collins (but without the makeup) when she- Jackie- was a baby . . but her parents wanted a writer-in-the-family, and not “another actor,” and her parents were celebrity-obsessed control freaks.

  26. Hi! I have an entry for you!

    “‘Some people just want to fill the world with silly love songs’, Seirei considered as she glanced once again at the bard in the centre of the gayly decorated square.”

    I think this is an awesome little contest. Congratulations on getting so many comments and great/horrible first lines in so little time!

    Let me know when you’re having a “worst line of prose” contest… I have that one in the bag! **wink**

  27. What a fun contest, Christi!

    Jillian, do you expect you’ll always write historical romance, or do you occasionally yearn to dabble in other genres? Once established in one genre, would you want to write under a pseudonym for anything else?

    As a pretty bad say-nothing, run-on first line, how’s this:
    “The dream lingered all morning, as did her rapturous smile – an unusual sight for her suspicious co-workers, who usually ducked into the stockroom at her approach, since she was known as Old Weasel Face before she’d had her coffee break, and no-one had seen her holding a mug yet today.”

    Not very original, I know. I already like Artemis Grey’s best! 🙂

  28. CM, Blaze, and Carol,
    More great worst firsts. This is going to be hard to judge.

    Carol, I don’t know how long I’ll write historicals. I do love them. And of course there is never a guarantee that another contract will come along after I get this series completed although I pray there will be more. I have dabbled with contemporary romantic comedy and contemporary romantic suspense. My hearts with the historicals now. It does seem that when writers change genres they change names, but that’s jumping way ahead of myself. In the realm of published authors I’m just a neophyte. 🙂

  29. Okay … I’ll give it a shot. Here’s the best worst first line I could come up with:

    Ravenous Xavier woke up suddenly from a restless night’s sleep to see a scary storm brewing beyond his pad, but suddenly a bug flew within sight, and Xavier whipped his tongue out and snapped at the bug; it fell next to him, and Xavier licked it up.


    Margo Kelly

  30. This sounds like fun. My worst first would be…

    Suddenly, Clementine awoke from a deep sleep; stood bolt upright; pale aquamarine eyes bulging with fear- shivers ran rapidly down her spinal column, causing her to frantically remember the night of the eternal quest for vigilance that had caused her rocky relationship with Joe-Bob to falter and bite the dust!

  31. My worst first:

    Together, Ethel and Sylvester were a galvanized cell…he was the reduction cell and she the oxidation cell; together, when their batteries charged, they became the Energizer Bunny, except–in spite of their furriness–neither of them were pink, at least not bubble gum pink.

  32. Pingback: I Am the Worst Writer and I Have Proof | Wordbitches

  33. Pingback: “Worst First” Winners! « Christi Corbett's Blog

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