Here’s our quick and easy December Jackpot Contest: “Best Opening Sentence”

After some serious November fun, I’m pleased to announce our fast and festive December Jackpot Contest:

“Best Opening Sentence”
December Jackpot Contest image

“Best Opening Sentence” will pay a minimum $25 first prize

In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m keeping this one short and sweet. We’re looking for a few good sentences — maybe a jackpot winner from you!

We’ll start the pot at $25 and let it build using 50% of every entry fee.

What’s in a sentence? A lot!

  •  Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  • Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
  •  It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
  •  It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. —Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

What do you think — can you do better than any of those? 

We’d love to see you try!

Your contest entry can be fiction or non-fiction, new or old, previously published or not. You could make up your entry right on the spot, if you like. (You must own the copyright.) All we need is your favorite opening sentence.  In fact, if you want to, you can enter twice!

Added in for the festivities, one lucky random entry will receive a $10 bonus prize, just for entering this contest.

This is good, clean holiday fun. Nothing too heavy or serious.

We’re going holiday cheap, too — it will only cost you a buck to play, if you’re a site Subscriber.

“So how does this work?” you ask.

It’ll take you less than 5 minutes to enter.

You’ll need your sentence, plus a dollar or two, depending. (see below)

I’ll add 50% of every entry fee to the initial $25 prize pot. Obviously, then, we’re playing “the more the merrier” this time around!

We’ll take new entries until Saturday, December 22 at 12:59 pm EST. Judging begins immediately after that.

We’ll announce 3 finalists that same day, by 6 pm. Then, from all remaining non-finalists, we’ll choose one entry at random to receive that $10 holiday bonus prize.

Our contest winner will be announced by Sunday afternoon, two days before Christmas.

Fast, fun, and easy — right? No weighty critiques, no pensive pondering.

Our judges will use two simple criteria to compare the entries:

  • Basic writing skill
  • Originality and the power of one sentence to snare a reader ‘s interest

Bring us your powerful sentence. A sentence so strong, so intriguing, that your readers will beg for more.

Then you plunk down your $1 or $2 entry fee*, and we’ll give you the password to the contest entry page. It’s right here under “Contest Rules“, waiting for you to join in.

Entry fee is discounted to $1 if you are a Subscriber to

What happens after you enter?

You’ll be able to read all of the other contest entries.

You could even leave a comment on one or more entries, if you promise to behave. None of the writers’ names will be revealed until the contest is over, so we want to work hard to maintain anonymity as much as possible. (We managed that nicely the first time around.)

We have two judges for the December competition: Tammy, from our November contest; and Raymond, our November winner. (As your host, I’m just the moderator and have no say in choosing the finalists.)

The judges will read and consider every entry. Each will assign a point rating for the 2 different quality measures: basic writing skill, and (most important) that elusive “Wow!” factor. None of these scores will be publicly displayed.

Simple enough?

When it’s done, we’ll throw $10 bucks to one random entrant and award the jackpot to our winner. The winning sentence will be published on the site. Maybe we’ll use it as the theme for a future contest.

So, if you have one or two great sentences in your writing arsenal, please do join the holiday celebration here.

Remember that this is not a popularity contest, to be won by whomever has the most Likes or G+’s. Your odds of winning are based upon the total number of entries and the level of your brilliance.

The minimum $25 First Prize is guaranteed to be awarded

Right from the start, 50% of every paid entry will increase the prize jackpot. 

The contest is open right now and continues until Saturday, December 22 at 12:59 pm EST. Our winner will have his or her prize money in hand two days before Christmas.

Would you like to join us?

>> This contest is now closed to new entries. Thank you all for joining us! ~Jim

If you are not a SoWrite site subscriber or you would like to enter twice, please click the button below to enter:  (Be sure to read the Thank You page!)

$2 ENTRY FEE via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

If you are a SoWrite subscriber, use the discounted $1 entry fee button instead. (You can sign up right now using the blue box, below, if you want to.)  Please be sure to read the Thank You page!

$1 ENTRY FEE via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!


When you click the Pay Now button, you will be directed to PayPal’s secure payments processing page for  Please read the Thank You page carefully for your Entry Password and contest page link. Payments made in error will be cheerfully refunded upon request.

questionQuestions? Ask away, right here on this page in the Comments section. I’ll be sure to answer your inquiries promptly.


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  1. Jim Bessey says:

    And, folks, just lke that we have our frst holday contest entres — what fun!

  2. Ths sounds really cool and fun! I’m enterng!

  3. Jm you are one of the most creatve new bloggers I have come across these past few months.

    Glad we have crossed paths. I LOVE THIS!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thanks so much, James. That means a lot to me, comng from you. I admre your guest posts very much, especally the conversatons that have evolved whenever you post.
      Hope you’ll jon our contest!

  4. Daniel Xiao Wang says:

    I’m n!

  5. I tred to jon, but paypal was havng problems (they sad they’re experencng temporary techncal problems). But ths s probably a good thng, for my chances of wnnng are probably quet low.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      I saw some of that whle tryng to create those two PayPal buttons ths mornng, Amt —
      the ste was perodcally unresponsve or gltchy. Please do try agan.
      I know the way you wrte, and am sure that you can craft a hghly compettve sentence. So there! :-)

  6. Jim Bessey says:

    We’re at 5 entres for ths evenng, folks. Jackpot s headed for $30.
    Let’s try for at least $40 — that would be fun!

  7. Alistair Marquise says:

    It feels good to be part of an actve group agan. Thanks for settng up ths blog, Jm.

  8. Well, I can’t thnk of anythng great, but I’ll come up wth somethng. Ought to be nterestng!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Just pck from one of the hundreds of great openng lnes from any of your chapters, Glory.
      Hardly any thnkng requred from one of our most prolfc wrters! :-)

  9. I’m blushng! :)

  10. Laura Sawyer says:

    Okay, I subscrbed, I pad my $1 at PayPal, but when I tred to use my new password that was sent to me, nothng happened. I’m out here knockng on the door…

    • Jim Bessey says:

      H Laura,
      Dd you enter your password at the top of the page called “December Jackpot”? Its lnk wll appear f you hover your mouse over the man ste lnk for Contest Rules, at the top of every page and just below the ste’s name and mage.
      If you stll have trouble gettng n, please contact me drectly va emal. Thanks!

      PS: Laura’s entry s all set now. Crss averted! whew. :-)

      • Laura Sawyer says:

        Thanks for settng me up. I thought I had read the drectons but t looks lke I’d glossed over a few paragraphs…

        • Jim Bessey says:

          You’re entrely welcome, Laura.
          I’m workng on ways to smplfy the entry process. Rght now, I do realze the drectons are overly long and a bt complcated. If I wasn’t concerned about author anonymty, the whole process would be much smpler.
          On the other hand, most of the “fxes” have been quck and easy. Ths contest s movng along very ncely toward Saturday’s mdday deadlne.

  11. Jim Bessey says:

    Wow, just checked the contest’s “books” and, folks, we have FOURTEEN confrmed entres — though not all are dsplayed yet on the contest page (Laura’s, above, s one of those).
    I’m really excted about your response to ths one. The fun part s — the Jackpot s clmbng, now over $30!
    Can I get a “wahoo!”? :-)

  12. Jim Bessey says:

    Dawn mentoned somethng moments ago that just blew my mnd —

    She made up her sentence specfcally for the contest (perfectly ok, by the way), and then wondered aloud f that sngle sentence mght lead to an entre novel. — Wouldn’t that be wld?

    A few carefully crafted words, one sentence created for a contest … becomes a complete novel on day. Now THAT would be a great story to tell!

  13. I can’t thnk of a great openng sentence rght now but I’m defntely resharng and retweetng ths!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Ooh, thank you for that, Jovell!
      Wat, ONE sentence?? You can’t thnk of ONE sentence? Don’t make me come over there! :-)
      Thanks for vstng and certanly for your promo shares — MUCH apprecated.

  14. Good Luck Jm stuck n a hosptal watng room not feelng very creatve but wll check back later to see how the fun s developng. Great dea

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thanks very much for takng the tme to stop by, Cara.
      I haven’t been to your ste yet, and wll make a pont to do so ths month.

  15. Jim Bessey says:

    Quck update —

    I’ve LOST COUNT of how many entres we have now! How much fun s that? I’m actually gong to have to go back through and count. Love t!

    And the Jackpot GROWS! :-)

  16. December jackpot says:

    I usually get n trouble when edtng my own stuff. I dd t agan by omttng a couple of words. It appears there s no edtng once a submsson s made.
    Can I wthdraw the submsson and fx and resubmt?
    Or wthdraw and submt a new and fresh sentence?
    Or s the submsson set n stone?

    —What a dunce.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      We’re all human, and entres can be “fxed” untl the submsson deadlne.
      That’s my job, snce I can nether jon nor judge! :-)
      I’ll contact you drectly, rght away.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      OK, let’s try agan.
      If you wll contact me drectly va emal or FB messagng, I’ll be happy to help. I’m unable to contact you va emal, “returned to sender,” so to speak. Thanks!

  17. Jim Bessey says:

    I’ve just now posted the announcement of our fnalsts. Please read that page for more nformaton.

    The contest entry page (hover over “Contest Rules,” above, for the lnk) s now publc, and you are all free to comment openly on our wonderful entres. Thank you to everyone who entered!


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