Holy cow, Courtney, thank you! I was worried the 1200 cookies explanation came too late, but didn't even notice I buried the actual lede. You're right, it's (I think) a simple fix:

Twelve hundred cookies stood between Alyssa Stern and the end of her marriage.

After so many years, the pastry bag felt like an extension of her body. She held it with confidence, the way a concert violinist wields a bow. The smooth, taut plastic slackened as she squeezed elegant swoops and swirls of royal icing onto a piece of parchment paper. These new flourishes matched the two dozen she’d already laid down. Perfect. She paused to admire her work, let the icing’s familiar lemon scent ground her.

Out the kitchen window, pre-dawn’s navy skies gave way to streaks of pink and purple over the mountains. Resentment flickered in Alyssa’s chest when she noticed the dark windows in the backyard Airbnb, Jeremy’s temporary quarters. He must be sleeping in. Again. When was the last time she slept past seven on a school day? This morning, nervous energy had awakened her early to practice for the first wedding project she’d landed for her company, Iced by Alyssa. The bride signed off on the prototype yesterday. Alyssa had felt fizzy all night, as if champagne replaced the blood in her veins.

Somehow, she’d convinced Nicole Turner, daughter of the area’s top philanthropist, to use 3D, tiered wedding cakes made of elaborately iced cookies as centerpieces at her New Year’s Eve wedding, just ten weeks away. The day Nicole announced her whirlwind engagement on Instagram, Alyssa messaged her the sketch of an idea she’d been toying with for years. The bride had swept into the bakery like a Gen Z Catherine Deneuve, all pushed-up sunglasses, gleaming blonde hair, and luminous, unlined skin. With a good twenty years on her, Alyssa felt distinctly troll-like in her presence. Nicole was too busy being glamorous to notice.

It took several weeks of back-and-forth, with each sketch a little more complicated than the previous one, before Nicole signed the contract. Alyssa still couldn’t believe her moonshot worked. This high-profile gig—some twelve hundred cookies with place cards, dessert, and favors figured in—might launch her business from a small town in the western Catskills all the way back to the city, even beyond. It made one thing clear: Jeremy went to art school, but in the end Alyssa’s artistry would support the family. Support her and Gertie.

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Courtney, you absolutely made my week! Thank you so much for your comments on my opening pages. Really loving this intensive so far, and looking forward to what’s to come.

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Mar 23Liked by Courtney Maum

I always read these through email and never remember to come here to comment, but I'm getting so much out of your Intensives posts! Thanks for featuring my excerpt here, too - your kind words about it were a boost during a rough writing week.

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Mar 22Liked by Courtney Maum

Reading your brainstorm examples of how subjectivity/interiority could be added into the paragraph was so helpful! Thank you for teaching with real works-in-progress.

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Yes, one really has to read the examples carefully and your analysis, and (for one of them) your suggested possible rewrites. So this took more time than usual, and I just had to pay attention to something else before I got a chance to comment.

Yes, this was very valuable. Reminds me how exactly to up my game in opening paragraphs.

By the way, I've never read two books by the same author at the same time, but I'm reading the hard copy of The Year of the Horses" and listening to the audio of "I'm Having So Much Fun Without You" at the same time and that is a damned interesting process. Seeing how your personal story fertilized your fiction quite creatively.

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Wow! This post - the sample examples, the expert analysis of the elements that work well and less well (with reasons WHY & possible FIXES!), and then some responses from the actual sample writers - is invaluable. It’s a mini writing workshop! I find myself wishing to be able to see how each of these 4 projects evolve & unfold.

Huge thanks to all involved.

PS For me, it took a little while to comment and express thanks partly because there’s so much here to think about… and partly because I dashed off to try to review & revise my own opening paragraphs on several different projects!

Can’t wait to see and learn from the next installments. Thanks again Courtney & writers!

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Really enjoying this opening pages intensive, thanks all who submitted and thanks Courtney!

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