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First Page Friday is a blog series where I provide a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel.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. Arphaxad says:

    My first reaction as I read was “this is a bit boring”. I thought the narrator was male and I had no grasp of what was going on. Near the end I realized the narrator was a women, she had attitude and the whole after life as a city thing sounded interesting.

    After reading the edit suggestions, I would be interested in reading how this first page reads with them done.

    I was strongly suggesting to take the advice on the info dump. Everything told about the fallen and the city could be told through the narrator going to the market and you showing us how the city functions.

    Good foundation, but it needs more action in the beginning and less info dump.

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      I agree about the gender. I first thought she was male, but then after I reread it I thought I might be the only one to conclude that. It’s probably worth clarifying earlier in the page.

  2. Arphaxad says:

    BTW, Ellen, please keep First Page Friday around. As a new writer, I have found it indispensable. I will be reblogging them all for now on in hopes of driving more traffic to this wonderful feature you have, and I would suggest everyone else do the same.

    Keep up the good work, it is appreciated.

  3. strangewriter says:

    I like the puddle but was disappointed to learn that this was not the way she’d died, as though she”d jumped to her death. I agree about all the overused phrases, it makes an interesting story a bundle of cliches.

    Unlike the other readers, I assumed a female protagonist but obviously that needs clearing up. I was hooked when I found out she was dead, but the most interesting part came very late, with the city.

    I personally like stories that leave the reader a little confused in the beginning, so don’t be too scared to do that and leave some things a mystery. Get me to that city! I’m eager to visit.

    I really liked this story. It’s easy to read and already funny (hangover in death same as in life, being ‘one with the city’. Reconsider the could haves and might haves also and it will give your lass more attitude if her opinions are strong and unwavering.

  4. strangewriter says:

    Reblogged this on Strange Writer and commented:
    I have learned a great deal from the critiques Ellen gives in her First Page Friday special blog posts. An unpublished writer gets professional feedback on their work for free and you can see the thought process behind each comment. You can even vote on the story.

    Unfortunately Ellen has had very light response and is considering removing this feature because it’s not reaching enough writers. Please show your support to an editor helping writers FOR FREE and mosey on over there and make some noise in the form of comments, shares or likes.

    Today I am participating in a self-editing and critiquing workshop hosted by QWC (Queensland Writers Centre) with my dear friend and co-author. Critiquing takes work and a great deal of thought. It’s very hard to find someone who will give an honest opinion, harder still to find professionals who don’t charge for it.

  5. The Writer's Wrong says:

    I actually liked the first sentence. For me, it immediately conjured a a funny mental image and I automatically smiled; I think mostly owing to the word “sprawled.” Maybe that’s because I’m the type of person to laugh when someone falls into a puddle (myself included – so that makes it okay right?) – but I found it engaging. I found myself wondering how *she* ended up in a puddle in the first place. Like Strangewriter, I automatically assumed it was a female narrator. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, so I automatically think I’m listening to a chick, or because personally I feel the chances of a guy pondering how he ended up in a puddle, instead of just standing up, are nil. But that’s me. Also like Strangewriter, I think the last paragraph in the entry set forth an interesting premise, and I agree that it would serve you better to move it to the beginning to draw the reader in – because it’s interesting! Death is a crappy city and the Fallen are a gang? Sounds like fun to me! Tell me more! Maybe put that before we meet Sam to give her relationship with the Abbie more context. But I think it was a great start and I hope you have great success with your story! I’d read it 🙂

  6. Kate Sparkes says:

    I like the concept, but agree with all of the editing points. The first few paragraphs (with all of the backstory) would have made me stop reading if this were an Amazon preview. I’d prefer to get right into this world and then learn about the character’s back-story in little pieces later.

    I agree that there’s nothing wring with the writing here– it seems quite competent and flows well. It just needs to grab me with something other than opening with learning that the narrator is dead and unhappy about it, which happens in a lot of books these days.

    I actually liked the “shit happens” line. That was the first time I got interested in the character. The fact that she isn’t all “woe is me” about being dead makes me want to know more about her. 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    I thought the writing and dialogue were pretty good, although the writing could be edited to remove excess words (eg. “wake” instead of wake up, “sprawled” instead of sprawled out). My main problem was confusion as to whether to take the “dead” scenario seriously or not.

    I went back and forth on the “is he/she dead, or is that just hyperbole for how he/she is feeling?” (to me, Sam’s comments made it seem as though Abbie is not dead, thus feeding my confusion). I never did get an answer, and then I came to the fantasy scenario info dump, and got completely turned away.

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