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. And, folks, just like that we have our first holiday contest entries — what fun!

  2. This sounds really cool and fun! I’m entering!

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

    Glad we have crossed paths. I LOVE THIS!

    • Thanks so much, James. That means a lot to me, coming from you. I admire your guest posts very much, especially the conversations that have evolved whenever you post.
      Hope you’ll join our contest!

  4. Daniel Xiao Wang says

    I’m in!

  5. I tried to join, but paypal was having problems (they said they’re experiencing temporary technical problems). But this is probably a good thing, for my chances of winning are probably quiet low.

    • I saw some of that while trying to create those two PayPal buttons this morning, Amit —
      the site was periodically unresponsive or glitchy. Please do try again.
      I know the way you write, and am sure that you can craft a highly competitive sentence. So there! 🙂

  6. We’re at 5 entries for this evening, folks. Jackpot is 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 active group again. Thanks for setting up this blog, Jim.

  8. Well, I can’t think of anything great, but I’ll come up with something. Ought to be interesting!

    • Just pick from one of the hundreds of great opening lines from any of your chapters, Glory.
      Hardly any thinking required from one of our most prolific writers! 🙂

  9. I’m blushing! 🙂

  10. Laura Sawyer says

    Okay, I subscribed, I paid my $1 at PayPal, but when I tried to use my new password that was sent to me, nothing happened. I’m out here knocking on the door…

    • Hi Laura,
      Did you enter your password at the top of the page called “December Jackpot”? Its link will appear if you hover your mouse over the main site link for Contest Rules, at the top of every page and just below the site’s name and image.
      If you still have trouble getting in, please contact me directly via email. Thanks!

      PS: Laura’s entry is all set now. Crisis averted! whew. 🙂

      • Laura Sawyer says

        Thanks for setting me up. I thought I had read the directions but it looks like I’d glossed over a few paragraphs…

        • You’re entirely welcome, Laura.
          I’m working on ways to simplify the entry process. Right now, I do realize the directions are overly long and a bit complicated. If I wasn’t concerned about author anonymity, the whole process would be much simpler.
          On the other hand, most of the “fixes” have been quick and easy. This contest is moving along very nicely toward Saturday’s midday deadline.

  11. Wow, just checked the contest’s “books” and, folks, we have FOURTEEN confirmed entries — though not all are displayed yet on the contest page (Laura’s, above, is one of those).
    I’m really excited about your response to this one. The fun part is — the Jackpot is climbing, now over $30!
    Can I get a “wahoo!”? 🙂

  12. Dawn mentioned something moments ago that just blew my mind —

    She made up her sentence specifically for the contest (perfectly ok, by the way), and then wondered aloud if that single sentence might lead to an entire novel. — Wouldn’t that be wild?

    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 think of a great opening sentence right now but I’m definitely resharing and retweeting this!

    • Ooh, thank you for that, Jovell!
      Wait, ONE sentence?? You can’t think of ONE sentence? Don’t make me come over there! 🙂
      Thanks for visiting and certainly for your promo shares — MUCH appreciated.

  14. Good Luck Jim stuck in a hospital waiting room not feeling very creative but will check back later to see how the fun is developing. Great idea

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to stop by, Ciara.
      I haven’t been to your site yet, and will make a point to do so this month.

  15. Quick update —

    I’ve LOST COUNT of how many entries we have now! How much fun is that? I’m actually going to have to go back through and count. Love it!

    And the Jackpot GROWS! 🙂

  16. December jackpot says

    I usually get in trouble when editing my own stuff. I did it again by omitting a couple of words. It appears there is no editing once a submission is made.
    Can I withdraw the submission and fix and resubmit?
    Or withdraw and submit a new and fresh sentence?
    Or is the submission set in stone?

    —What a dunce.

    • We’re all human, and entries can be “fixed” until the submission deadline.
      That’s my job, since I can neither join nor judge! 🙂
      I’ll contact you directly, right away.

    • OK, let’s try again.
      If you will contact me directly via email or FB messaging, I’ll be happy to help. I’m unable to contact you via email, “returned to sender,” so to speak. Thanks!

  17. I’ve just now posted the announcement of our finalists. Please read that page for more information.

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


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