First Page Friday #22: NA Fantasy

I just want to let everyone know that I’m uncertain whether I will be continuing with First Page Friday. I will definitely continue until I get through all the writers I’ve already scheduled (about two months worth), but I may retire First Page Friday in May. While I love doing the posts, I wanted them to be a way to reach out and help educate writers, but the view count on these posts is a small fraction of the views on my other blogs or on my videos. I’m just not sure this is the best way to reach writers.

If views, shares, comments, etc. pick up over the next couple months, I might consider continuing the series, but otherwise, I will go back to my standard, educational blog posts. Thanks for understanding!

About First Page Friday

First Page Friday is a blog series where I provide a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel. Read the excerpt without my notes first and leave your vote in the poll. Afterward, feel free to leave a comment for the author. Feedback is always helpful!

NA Fantasy First 500 – Jodie

Of all the places in the world I would have liked to wake up, sprawled out in a puddle of water was not one of them. The rain was pouring down, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low. Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for the wildlife in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell.

Death sucked.

If anyone had ever asked me if I was afraid of dying, I honestly could have told them, no. Death was always something that would happen after I’d graduated from college, had a successful career, found the one, and had kids. Then maybe after I’d travelled the world and witnessed the birth of my fifth grandchild, I could die peacefully in my sleep. That was how I’d always thought my life would pan out… dying in a car crash the week before my twenty-first birthday hadn’t exactly been on the agenda, but shit happens, right?

“Do I sense motion down there?” a voice called.

I opened my eyes to see Sam leaning out the window of the apartment we had been squatting in for the last couple of days. She looked fresh and well rested, as though she hadn’t just spent the entire night partying with me. I pushed myself slowly into a seated position; my head felt like it was about to roll off my shoulders and join my arse in the puddle. If I’d known a hangover in death would be just as bad as a hangover in life, then I might have reconsidered that last round of shots.

“Are you all right down there, Abbie?”

“I can’t believe you left me out here in the rain.”

“You wanted to stay out there,” Sam said, pulling the hood of her coat up over her blonde hair. “You kept going on and on about how being ‘one with the city’ was the only way you’d come to accept your own death. So I was like, all right then, see-ya.”

“Worst. Friend. Ever.”

“Hey, I’ve only known you a week. I wouldn’t start calling us friends yet,” Sam teased. “Now are you coming inside, or what?”

Going inside didn’t sound like a good idea. Sam would undoubtedly jump all over my hung-over state and decide we should go on a run to collect supplies. Battling the crowds of the marketplace was the last thing I wanted to be doing; I wasn’t lucid enough to be on constant guard.

The afterlife was interesting, to say the least. It manifested as a dark and derelict city that probably could have been tolerable if the crime wasn’t so high. There was no overruling law or governmental body and the only real dominance came from The Fallen, the largest gang in the city. They oversaw the marketplace and had a hand in most of its underground business.

Reader Participation – What Do You Think?

Before reading my take on this novel opening, please take a moment to record your thoughts in the poll below.

Your thoughtful critiques and suggestions for the writer are also welcome in the comments section. Explaining your vote gives the author even more insight into where they’re hitting the mark and where they can improve.

The Writeditor’s Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics.

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

NA Fantasy First 500 – Jodie

Of all the places in the world I would have liked to wake up < I feel like this type of sentence is overused, where it’s unlikely the character has ever wondered about the subject (places they’d like to wake up), then a very obviously bad option is explained. It isn’t as evocative as simply stating that she’s lying in a puddle., sprawled out in a puddle of water was not one of them. The rain was pouring poured < Verbs ending in “ed” are stronger. down, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and I’m not a fan of characters wondering. It makes it clear you’re about to dump information.  Try for a better transition (or no transition) than that the character was wondering/thinking/etc. > wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low. Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for the wildlife in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell.

Death sucked.

I don’t feel like you really need this paragraph. It explains a fairly typical/average opinion about death, and I feel like I’ve read it before. Is it really adding anything or are you just slowing down your opening? I feel like the latter. > If anyone had ever asked me if I was afraid of dying, I honestly could have told them, no. Death was always something that would happen after I’d graduated from college, had a successful career, found the one, and had kids. Then maybe after I’d travelled the world and witnessed the birth of my fifth grandchild, I could die peacefully in my sleep. That was how I’d always thought my life would pan out… dying in a car crash the week before my twenty-first birthday hadn’t exactly been on the agenda, < As with the opening line, I feel that sentences like this are overused and not very strong because they state something obvious. but shit happens, right? < This is a weak response. It’s not saying anything about your character or providing any new information to the reader.

“Do I sense motion down there?” a voice called.

I opened my eyes to see Sam leaning out the window of the apartment we had been squatting in for the last couple of days. She looked fresh and well rested, as though she hadn’t just spent the entire night partying with me. I pushed myself slowly into a seated position; my head felt like it was about to roll off my shoulders and join my arse in the puddle. If I’d known a hangover in death would be just as bad as a hangover in life, then I might have reconsidered that last round of shots. < The voice is much, much better in this paragraph. The “telling” is hidden better as well.

“Are you all right down there, Abbie?”

“I can’t believe you left me out here in the rain.”

“You wanted to stay out there,” Sam said, pulling the hood of her coat up over her blonde hair. “You kept going on and on about how being ‘one with the city’ was the only way you’d come to accept your own death. So I was like, all right then, see-ya.”

“Worst. Friend. Ever.”

“Hey, I’ve only known you a week. < This feels like “As you know Bob” dialogue, where a character states something obvious that they already know for the benefit of the reader. I wouldn’t start calling us friends yet,” Sam teased. “Now are you coming inside, or what?”

Going inside didn’t sound like a good idea. Sam would undoubtedly jump all over my hung-over state and decide we should go on a run to collect supplies. < Could you show this happening instead of saying that it will happen? Battling the crowds of the marketplace was the last thing I wanted to be doing; I wasn’t lucid enough to be on constant guard.

This is an info dump. > The afterlife was interesting, to say the least. It manifested as a dark and derelict city that probably could have been tolerable if the crime wasn’t so high. There was no overruling law or governmental body and the only real dominance came from The Fallen, the largest gang in the city. They oversaw the marketplace and had a hand in most of its underground business.

My Overall Thoughts

You don’t have any major issues with your writing, but you seem to be trying to tell the reader a lot of information and back story right off the bat. Additionally, the voice feels a bit predictable/typical for the first couple paragraphs, though it starts feeling more unique partway through. If you couldn’t explain any back story in the first chapter, would you still start the book here? Or did you choose this scene as a convenient framing for dumping back story? (I can’t know without reading more.)

Key Places to Improve:

  • Make sure your character’s voice always reads as unique. The first couple paragraphs seem like you’re trying to write like other NA or YA writers rather than showing us your true voice.
  • Put your best foot forward. If the scene itself can’t draw in readers (without telling or back story), then you’re not starting in the right place.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2.5

I’m giving this a 2.5 because I see the potential for an interesting story, but I’m not getting pulled in right now. There’s too much information and back story and not enough to hook me with the character or plot.

A note on the grading scale: The rating of the first chapter does not indicate the rating of the novel as a whole nor does it indicate the writer’s overall ability.

Submit to First Page Friday – (currently CLOSED to submissions)

See my comments at the top of this post for more information.

About the Editor

Ellen Brock is a freelance novel editor who works with self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors as well as e-publishers and small presses. She owns the editing company Keytop Services and the writing and editing blog The Writeditor. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

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23 thoughts on “First Page Friday #22: NA Fantasy

  1. Sue says:

    On a possibly nit-picky point, I was, confused isn’t exactly the right word, but will have to do, by the inter-mingling of what seemed to me to be very specific UK/US usage. ‘Arse’ (as opposed to ass) is not something I’ve previously come across in US writing, yet the use of ‘college’ and ‘veterinarian’ (would be university and abbreviated to vet in UK) establish it as being written in American English. (Beware the differing interpretations of ‘fanny’ on either side of the Pond!) On the strength of what I’ve read here I’d probably borrow this from the library as a light read rather than buy it as something to read and re-read.

    As other commentators have said, I’ve only just discovered this blog and I intend to spend the next couple of hours catching up on what I’ve missed – starting with this section. Please keep it going..

    • Arphaxad says:

      I think the use of ‘arse’ in the US has caught on because of language filters in gaming. It also sounds a little better than just saying ass. As an American I thought the use of the British slang appropriate in this case.

      Good point to make though. Writers use slang to define nationality and when we use slang that has crossed boarders it could lead to confusion. Bloody hell, writing is difficult.

  2. cassandracharles says:

    I also thought the character was male!
    On a different note, I think you should keep these Friday posts. I, too, was shocked that there weren’t many comments, but sometimes people prefer to read the posts rather than comment. Me included.
    From these posts, writers get an insight into how you see things, how you might edit their work. I like your editing style. You seem critical, in a good way, and I seem to agree on most of the same things.
    Your blog stands out amongst other editor blogs because of this feature, amongst other things. I come back every week to check it out!
    This feature has put you to the top of my list of editors I want to work with on my manuscript, when the time comes.
    Whatever you choose to do, good luck.

  3. cassandracharles says:

    Reblogged this on Romance Isn't Dead and commented:
    First Page Friday is a great idea. Writers upload up to 500 words of their manuscript, Ellen edits it, and posts her critiques on a Friday. Others then get the chance to critique the work, too.
    Overall, it’s a great idea, and it helps writers to improve their craft, for FREE.

  4. John Hansen says:

    One thing is that the all the backstory clutter the scene, but even worse is that it seems a waste of good story: being killed, waking up in a city, finding a place to stay (good one!), meeting a friend, discovering the marketplace and the gang ruling the city, all those could be exciting scenes.

  5. Kylie Betzner says:

    I personally, really enjoy these First Page Fridays. It’s unique. Just give bloggers time to catch on. I think it will draw attention. It’s so much more educational with the samples. I’m considering sending you some of my work to use if you’re interested. I’m sure my sister would love to share her writing to educate others as well.

    Keep it up!

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