First Chapter of a Novel – Dec2015/January 2016 Competition
Judge‛s Report

The First Chapter entries were a good eclectic Mix of various genres of literary style. A common theme seemed to be South African people who travel to other countries to seek some sort of emotional or physical answers to dilemmas. This was very interesting as this seems to be a trend in S.A. Literature currently.
The winner was chosen because of clarity. The synopsis was concise but descriptive. It gave a clear span of the entire novel and also included the dominating themes. The First Chapter of this winning entry was immediately gripping as it launched into the narrative without too much rhetoric.

The writer entrants need to pay attention to proper synopsis writing style that is looked at by most trade publishing houses. Basic format in terms of a literary synopsis must be followed and this includes a clear title and including the themes that run through the story. Some entries had too detailed and convoluted a synopsis that lost the reader. Remember, your synopsis is your first greeting to a publisher. It is your hook and must be polished and gripping making the reader want to read the first chapter and the book itself.
Try not to get into an advocacy style where you justify your story in rhetoric as this is not a defending platform but an introductory one.
The First Chapter of the Winning entry was simple and immediately launched into where the author wanted to take you.
Themes as well must be of a popular or relevant slant. Too much niche themes do not translate well to publishers who have a massive slush pile.
Grammar and tone as well as basic sentence construction must be a strong focus. It shows a writer who cares for their Manuscript an has attention to detail.
Formatting is also key. Spacing and size of font will set you apart from others. Crammed pages just turn the reviewer off. Dialogue was a strong point in many of the entries and I found the exchange of dialogue very realistic and fresh.
Some advice… when you construct your synopsis and in all your Chapters, not just the first, do what the professional editors do. They read it out loud to themselves. If it reads well… it’s good writing. If it is clunky and feels wrong then it needs work.
Above all, enjoy the process. It is not everybody that has this courage to write a story.

ZP Dala