First Page Friday #36: Supernatural Suspense

***First Page Friday will be on hiatus from July 4th through August 1st for Novel Boot Camp. Weekly workshops will be held during the month instead. Please come by and participate!***

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First Page Friday is a blog series where I provide a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel.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

Supernatural Suspense – Laura T. Evans

New York City, New York

2:34 am

***Trigger Warning: Rape***

His eyes were sharp, focused; the kind that could be almost handsome in a different situation. He was still inside her moving with purpose. She tried to turn her head away, but his hand gripped her chin and forced her to look at him. If she tried to close her eyes, he would hit her; she had already attempted it once; the pain in her cheek still pulsing. She stared through him, thinking of her family and friends, hoping that he would finish and just walk away.

She felt the point of the knife slide into her throat and her body began bucking wildly to unseat him but her limbs chaffed at the ropes; he was just too strong, too heavy and she didn’t have the strength anymore to fight him.

 

He grinned at her sardonically. “Yeah baby, fight me.” He purred into her ear, his breath hot and sticky.

“NO!” her mind screamed, and she forced her limbs to go completely limp, challenging him with her eyes. There was no way she would live through this, she had heard the news stories. The knife pressed deeper; she felt it, the blood warm and sticky running down her breasts and onto the clean starched sheets. Should she feel sorry for the maid who would walk into this tomorrow?

He bent down and whispered in her ear but she only caught some of it as her mind was beginning to blur, “..pathetic, weak, I enjoy watching all of you die under me.”

She closed her eyes and prayed for the end. It came slowly as her heart ceased to beat.

***

***End Trigger Warning***

Aurora, Iowa

6:25 pm

Sarah opened the door to her shiny black sedan and stepped out, bumping it closed with her backside, and leaned against the cool metal, releasing the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. The house didn’t look much different that it had 12 years ago; just a few things were different. The shutter on her bedroom window was hanging askew and the front steps paint was flaking away in big pieces showing the bare cement; basically it was exactly as she remembered. It was once a beautiful place, the home of an actual family, but scrub and tall weeds now covered the front flowerbeds, which clearly hadn’t been tended years.

She stepped decisively up to the front door and stopped. Her hand gently extended on the knob; feeling the familiar crawling that started in her legs and moved slowly up her torso to her head, like tiny bugs scampering on her skin, when she used her abilities. The images were coming fast, flipping through her mind; a child playing on a rope swing, her father singing Frank Sinatra in the den while writing something on a paper, her mother digging in the front flower bed while she placed the small delicate sprout into the fresh clean earth.

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Supernatural Suspense – Laura T. Evans

New York City, New York

2:34 am

***Trigger Warning: Rape***

His eyes were sharp, focused; the kind that could be almost handsome in a different situation. < “The kind” seems awkward here to me. “Handsome” isn’t a kind of eyes in my opinion. I would just say “they could be almost handsome.” He was still inside her moving with purpose. She tried to turn her head away, but his hand gripped her chin and forced her to look at him. If she tried to close her eyes, he would hit her; she had already attempted it once; the pain in her cheek still pulsing. She stared through him, thinking of her family and friends, hoping that he would finish and just walk away. < There are some very strong opinions out there about the depiction of rape in fiction. Some agents/publishers are rarely or never okay with it; others are okay with it when it develops characters or is vital to the plot. I have seen many agents say that they do not like reading about rape or violence in the opening pages of a novel (before they’ve had time to settle into the plot). Opening with rape is risky and very unlikely to be a benefit. I would consider carefully whether the novel needs to start here.

She felt the point of the knife slide into her throat and her body began bucking wildly to unseat him but her limbs chaffed at the ropes; he was just too strong, too heavy and she didn’t have the strength anymore to fight him. <I would show the development from her “bucking wildly” to not having the “strength anymore to fight him.” I also feel that you aren’t giving the reader anything to latch onto other than the rape itself. Who is this person? Where is this person? Why are they there? If these are mystery elements, is it important to show this scene at all? There are alternatives. For example, you could describe where she was prior to the rape, where she was going, what she was doing, etc., then end the scene alluding to the fact that she never makes it home again.

 

He grinned at her sardonically. “Yeah baby, fight me.” He purred into her ear, his breath hot and sticky. < This is a description I’ve read many times before.

“NO!” her mind screamed, and she forced her limbs to go completely limp, challenging him with her eyes. There was no way she would live through this, she had heard the news stories. The knife pressed deeper; she felt it, the blood warm and sticky running down her breasts and onto the clean starched sheets. Should she feel sorry for the maid who would walk into this tomorrow?

He bent down and whispered in her ear but she only caught some of it as her mind was beginning to blur, “..pathetic, weak, I enjoy watching all of you die under me.”

She closed her eyes and prayed for the end. It came slowly as her heart ceased to beat. < Not to sound callous, but why should readers care about this woman’s death? We don’t know who she is. We don’t know why she matters. This scene has no value to the reader other than on a superficial fact-based level. Why should we care what happens next? She already died and there aren’t really any mystery elements to wonder about.

***

***End Trigger Warning***

Aurora, Iowa

6:25 pm

Sarah opened the door to her shiny black sedan and stepped out, bumping it closed with her backside, < I would start a new sentence here. Give the reader time to digest what you’re saying. and leaned against the cool metal, The house didn’t look much different that it had 12 years ago; just a few things were different. < This sentence feels redundant. I would condense the two clauses into one. The shutter on her bedroom window was hanging askew and the front steps paint was flaking away in big pieces showing the bare cement; < I’d cut the red section for a tighter description. basically it was exactly as she remembered. < I thought you meant those things were what was different (the shutter askew and the paint flaking), but now you’re saying this was how she remembered it. This was a bit jarring. It was once a beautiful place, the home of an actual family, but scrub and tall weeds now covered the front flowerbeds, which clearly hadn’t been tended years. <So was it “the home of an actual family” when she lived there? Or was it always like this?

She stepped decisively up to the front door and stopped. Her hand gently extended on the knob; <This description reads awkwardly to me. I think “to the knob” would make more sense.  feeling the familiar crawling that started in her legs and moved slowly up her torso to her head, like tiny bugs scampering on her skin, when she used her abilities. < This sentence is too long and I found myself struggling a bit to read it. It also means that her hand experienced the feeling (not her). The images were coming fast, flipping through her mind; a child playing on a rope swing, her father singing Frank Sinatra in the den while writing something on a paper, her mother digging in the front flower bed while she placed the small delicate sprout into the fresh clean earth. < “While” doesn’t make sense here unless she is digging with one hand and placing the flowers at the same time with the other hand.

 

 

My Overall Thoughts

Opening with a rape scene is a risk and one that I would avoid unless you feel very strongly that it is absolutely the best place to start your novel. The next scene is okay, but you still haven’t established a strong connection to a character. Why is Sarah going back to her childhood home? Alluding to the reason might be a good way to create suspense or intrigue.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Work on writing shorter, clearer sentences. Make sure when you describe things (like whether the house looks the same or different), all the descriptions relate back to the same idea.
  • Give the reader more character to latch onto. Other than her powers occurring, how does Sarah feel about going back home?
  • If you tend to rely on standard, easy descriptions (his breath was hot and sticky), go through your manuscript and replace these typical descriptions with something a little more “you,” something that will make agents see what is unique about your voice.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

The opening is risky, but the second scene didn’t really reel me in either.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

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Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #35: Fantasy

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!

Fantasy – Anna Chidiac

It was my first time on the surface.

It was the first time any of my people had been on the surface in hundreds of years.

The only thing I knew about it was from stories. I knew about the sun, which provided light to us too, although we could not see it. I knew about large trees and animals. I knew about the people who lived up here. Or at least, I knew what they were like hundreds of years ago. I guessed things had changed a lot since then. I wondered if they still had farms and books.

 

I left my ship in the water, hidden in a deep cave, and climbed onto a shoreline of jagged rocks.

It was early morning and the day was already brighter than it ever was at home. The sun blazed with a white hot light that almost burned my skin.

 

I saw no sign of people on the rocks, they were desolate and bare. But there was a white beach to my left with signs of life. I ran along the uneven terrain, negotiating it with ease, and jumped down onto the sand.

Here there were people; people that looked very different from mine. Their skin was darker; it ranged from pink to dark brown. Younger ones played on the beach while older ones lied around in the sun, some of them carrying unnecessary extra weight. They seemed carefree to the point of lethargy.

As I got closer to them, they sat up, and vigilantly followed me with their eyes, or as vigilantly as they seemed capable of. I tried to look non-threatening, but I remained alert. I would not let my guard down simply because these people seemed harmless. There was a strong sense of wariness amongst them that could easily turn into hostility.

It was a small beach, but beautiful. I had not ever seen such white sand. It was a stark contrast to the water, which looked like a raging mass of liquid black. The water in my world was perfectly still, this water crashed into the shore in waves. The entire beach was surrounded by a thick green forest.

 

As I walked, more and more people stopped what they were dong to look at me. It was not long before every one of them was staring in fearful curiosity. I slipped into the woods. I knew I would have to establish trust with these people, if I was going to get what I wanted. But the gaze of the ones in front of me made me uneasy. I would find someone else to speak with. There were paths in the forest, and not far in, I came a across a hard flat surface full of shining metallic structures of all different colors. Each one had four wheels.

Intriguing” I said, walking up to study a deep blue one. “It is like a carriage with no horse”

Hey!” a man shouted.

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Fantasy – Anna Chidiac

It was my first time on the surface. < I am immediately thinking “mermaid,” and because mermaids have been done quite a bit in fiction, I am also immediately wondering what will make this particular story stand out.

It was the first time any of my people had been on the surface in hundreds of years.

The only thing I knew about it was from stories. I knew about the sun, which provided light to us too, although we could not see it. I knew about large trees and animals. I knew about the people who lived up here. Or at least, I knew what they were like hundreds of years ago. I guessed things had changed a lot since then. < I would prefer to see her come to this conclusion based on an observation.  I wondered if they still had farms and books.

 

I left my ship in the water, hidden in a deep cave, and climbed onto a shoreline of jagged rocks.

It was early morning and the day was already brighter than it ever was at home. The sun blazed with a white hot light that almost burned my skin. < Since the sun can burn the skin of surface-dwelling humans, the sun being “almost” hot enough to burn her skin doesn’t seem very severe. I want more suspense, higher stakes.

 

I saw no sign of people on the rocks, they were desolate and bare. But there was a white beach to my left with signs of life. I ran along the uneven terrain, negotiating it with ease, and jumped down onto the sand. < If she’s never met humans before, wouldn’t she be scared? If she’s not scared, what is she feeling? I want to be emotionally close to her.

Here there were people; people that looked very different from mine. Their skin was darker; it ranged from pink to dark brown. Younger ones played on the beach while older ones lied around in the sun, some of them carrying unnecessary extra weight. They seemed carefree to the point of lethargy. < I want to be able to visualize this clearly, but I’m not sure how close she is to the people. Is she standing among them? Is she a few yards away? Can the people see her?

As I got closer to them, they sat up, and vigilantly followed me with their eyes, or as vigilantly as they seemed capable of. I tried to look non-threatening, < Could you show this? How does she change her posture or behavior to seem less threatening? but I remained alert. I would not let my guard down simply because these people seemed harmless. There was a strong sense of wariness amongst them that could easily turn into hostility. < Add some expression of her emotion. Is her heart pounding? Is she shaking? Does she hate the feeling of all those eyes on her body?

It was a small beach, but beautiful. < You’re breaking what little tension you’ve created. Now things seem pleasant and peaceful. I had not ever seen such white sand. It was a stark contrast to the water, which looked like a raging mass of liquid black. The water in my world was perfectly still, this water crashed into the shore in waves. The entire beach was surrounded by a thick green forest.

 

As I walked, more and more people stopped what they were dong to look at me. It was not long before every one of them was staring in fearful curiosity. I slipped into the woods. < This is vague. How far did she have to go to get to the woods? Did she run? Did she get scratched on tree branches? Did she stumble and fall? Is she embarrassed or scared or curious? I knew I would have to establish trust with these people, if I was going to get what I wanted. But the gaze of the ones in front of me made me uneasy. < Show that the gazes made her uneasy at the time that she was standing in front of them. Also, if they make her uneasy, why did she go near them in the first place?  I would find someone else to speak with. < If she was trying to speak with someone, then show her making an attempt at conversation or getting too scared to try. Otherwise, her motivation is not clear, which creates a barrier between her and the reader. Even a subtle indication of her motivation (For example: “I had to do this.”) would help tremendously in the early part of this opening. There were paths in the forest, and not far in, I came a across a hard flat surface full of shining metallic structures of all different colors. Each one had four wheels.

Intriguing” I said, walking up to study a deep blue one. “It is like a carriage with no horse” < How would she know what a carriage is?

Hey!” a man shouted.

 

My Overall Thoughts

The writing is too sparse to draw the reader in. Whether this is a mermaid book or she’s some sort of underground dweller, this should be – at least in part – a “fish out of water” story. I want to see her getting burned by the sun. I want her to shake with fear at approaching the humans. I want her to wobble on unsteady legs. I want to see how horribly different it is to be on the surface.

Key Places to Improve:

  • The main character feels completely blank. There is no hint of personality and only the tiniest indications of emotion. Readers want to connect to your character, but that can’t happen if you don’t give them any points of connection. Show emotions through body language, gestures, behavior, thoughts, etc.
  • Paint a more evocative picture for the reader. I want to feel the sand under my feet, smell the hotdog stand, hear the children laughing. Rather than making generalized descriptions of the people and setting, pick out individual elements that represent the whole. For example: “A child jumped in front of me, his skin shiny and pink, his blond curls waving in the light breeze.”

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

I couldn’t emotionally connect with the story nor create strong enough visuals in my mind to get sucked in.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

087

Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #34: Historical Fiction

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!

Historical Fiction – Pam Portland

Jack and Clementine occupied plastic, folding chairs under the portable tarp that covered the simple grave site attempting to ignore the sideways gusts of rain the wind blew, which added wet misery directed towards them.  Master Sergeant David York’s death, while not unexpected, left the two teenagers huddling against the rain and against the exasperating task of tackling adulthood immediately.  Admittedly, Clementine had the advantage of years over Jack and having a far better recollection of the process of burying a parent, yet the assistance from the military family support network primarily covered the procedures, rather than the emotions of the day’s experience.  While thankful for their presence and assistance during his final days, which she felt assured would end with this service, her appreciation measured insignificantly against her fear and uncertainty of the life now ahead of her and her brother.

In roughly a few months, she expected, about the time the paperwork and probate hit full swing, she would already have turned eighteen and be able to control legally the responsibilities she had managed for years.  Ever since her father had first been hospitalized following what had been anticipated as a brief outpatient procedure to remove a small mass, she kept the household running while her father continued his military responsibilities and the daunting task of managing and regulating his health.  Procedures, paperwork, therapies, treatments, medicines, and maladies filled their lives and now twenty-two months later, Clementine would be flying solo in her business obligations and her brother’s care.

Jack, however, still had four months until he could receive his driver’s permit, three more years of high school studies, and a lifetime with no one to serve as a mentor to him.  Clementine, despite her involvement otherwise, tried always to be just a big sister to him.  From packing lunches to paying for school field trips from her father’s account, she took care of the matriarchal duties, but not with the effort of a parent, but rather out of sibling affection.  She inherited and honed the role over a decade when their mother’s misdiagnosed symptoms left her lying alone at home after collapsing from a coronary illness.  When the school bus brought brother and sister home from pre-K and second grade respectively, Clementine accepted her first adult responsibility by calling her father and then the emergency responders.  She grew up quickly after that, not that the world noticed.

After her death, the remnants of the York family managed through their last relocation back to their parents’ original hometown, despite the fact that their father had no blood ties in the area.  Their parents had met here while her mother attended college and her father was beginning his military career.  While participating in an informational career fair in the student union, David saw Carrie, who had hoped to find an internship at the end of her freshman year.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Historical Fiction – Pam Portland

Jack and Clementine occupied plastic, folding chairs under the portable tarp that covered the simple grave site attempting to ignore the sideways gusts of rain the wind blew, which added wet misery directed towards them. < There is adjective overload in this sentence. It’s also quite a long sentence for readers to start with. Opening with shorter sentences can help the reader slowly digest what’s going on. Introducing too much in a single sentence (the characters, setting, weather, and mood) can be overwhelming.  Master Sergeant David York’s death, while not unexpected, left the two teenagers huddling against the rain and against the exasperating task of tackling adulthood immediately.  < “Exasperating” makes me think of a teenager huffing and puffing over something insignificant. It doesn’t seem like a serious enough word here. Admittedly, Clementine had the advantage of years over Jack and having as well as a far better recollection of the process of burying a parent, The second half of this sentence doesn’t quite connect to the first well enough for me to feel that “yet” works here. > yet the assistance from the military family support network primarily covered the procedures, rather than the emotions of the day’s experience.  While thankful for their presence and assistance during his final days, which she felt assured would end with this service, her appreciation measured insignificantly against her fear and uncertainty of the life now ahead of her and her brother. < You’re doing a lot of telling. Could you show how she feels based on her expressions, movement, behavior, etc.? She could grab her brother and hold him tight. She could bite her lip. She could struggle to look at the grave. There are lots and lots of ways to portray emotion here without just stating (telling) it.

In roughly a few months, she expected, about the time the paperwork and probate hit full swing, she would already have turned eighteen and be able to control legally the responsibilities she had managed for years.  Ever since her father had first been hospitalized following what had been anticipated as a brief outpatient procedure to remove a small mass, she kept the household running while her father continued his military responsibilities and the daunting task of managing and regulating his health.  Procedures, paperwork, therapies, treatments, medicines, and maladies filled their lives and now twenty-two months later, Clementine would be flying solo in her business obligations and her brother’s care. < You’re dumping info on the reader. I want to experience what Clementine is experiencing right now. I don’t want to be told about what’s going to happen and what’s already happened unless it’s tucked into a scene about what’s currently happening.

Jack, however, still had four months until he could receive his driver’s permit, three more years of high school studies, and a lifetime with no one to serve as a mentor to him.  Clementine, despite her involvement otherwise, tried always to be just a big sister to him.  From packing lunches to paying for school field trips from her father’s account, she took care of the matriarchal duties, but not with the effort of a parent, but rather out of sibling affection.  She inherited and honed the role over a decade when their mother’s misdiagnosed symptoms left her lying alone at home after collapsing from a coronary illness.  When the school bus brought brother and sister home from pre-K and second grade respectively, Clementine accepted her first adult responsibility by calling her father and then the emergency responders.  She grew up quickly after that, not that the world noticed. < The reason info dumps like this don’t work is that everyone has some tragic or traumatic back story from their lives. Tragedy itself isn’t significant, shocking, or captivating. It’s the characters that make us care about a novel’s tragedy, but that can’t happen before we know anything about the characters and before you – the auth0r – endear the character to us.

After her death, the remnants of the York family managed through their last relocation back to their parents’ original hometown, despite the fact that their father had no blood ties in the area.  Their parents had met here while her mother attended college and her father was beginning his military career.  While participating in an informational career fair in the student union, David saw Carrie, who had hoped to find an internship at the end of her freshman year. < Readers don’t need a history of the entire family, especially before we know anything about the characters and especially when the back story is not vital in understanding the scene.

 

My Overall Thoughts

There’s not much going on in this opening. After the first two lines, nothing is shown because nothing happens in the moment. There are lots and lots of books out there about orphaned teenagers. You’re not demonstrating what’s unique about this one.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Cut way down on the telling and info dumps. You can’t suck a reader into a story with information about the past. Readers get sucked into stories when they care about the characters, which means you have to show the characters doing, saying, thinking, or feeling something worth caring about.
  • More things should be happening “in the moment” of the scene than in the past. Check out this article about how much back story is too much. Work on hooking the reader into the story by showing what’s happening as Clementine and Jack attend the funeral. There is so much potential for strong emotion here and for showing their personality traits.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

The writing didn’t stand out as good or bad on a technical level. I didn’t find myself getting sucked into the story due to the info dumps and telling.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

087

Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #33: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

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!

Contemporary Women’s Fiction – Kaylee Nicole Ward

Nothing prepares a human being for loss: that’s what I tell people. Time heals wounds, they would respond. Not scars, however, rarely scars. I’m covered in them. They stripe across my thighs and the inside of my elbows, they leave light dents in the nook of collarbone. They make a shiny home under my jawline. They tell horrid stories that would only normally be heard from convicted criminals. I’ve been trying to see past my own reflection, the little black girl made of barely skin and bone and dark sunken eyes, but that’s always easier said than done. My social worker, Ms. Patty, was trying to make me feel better about my first foster home. She was chattering away about my new parents. As usual, I wasn’t listening. I was watching out the window. The world seemed bigger than it had in years. I felt small.
“Ms. Patty,” I finally spoke up from the backseat of the car.
Ms. Patty looked in the rear view mirror, eyes wide. It still always seems to surprise her when I say anything at all. I’m not entirely sure why. However, I think it has something to do with the fact that everyone thinks I’m broken or something. “Yes, dear?”
“Please stop talking.” Once it came out it felt too harsh. Though, it got the point across.
Ms. Patty’s eyes saddened, but she nodded. I contemplated apologizing, but decided against it. I knew she would instantly feel better and begin rambling again.
The sky is dark today, grey clouds hovering low. I couldn’t see the setting sun on the horizon and all the colors it would paint along the edge of sky. I wish I could. I lost my sense of time inside the rehab center. I bit down my nails and let every withdrawal symptom known to man hit me like a train. Ms. Patty was still watching me, but I was too focused the sky.
“The sky is dark today,” I finally said out loud. I wanted the statement to mean that I was upset by this, but I don’t think I executed it properly.
Ms. Patty smiled at me through the mirror. “It is. I suspect rain this evening.”
I nodded. I didn’t want to rain on my first day out. I didn’t want the world to be dark and gloomy. I thought I would hear the birds sing, smell the sunshine and feel the heat beating down on my skin. I bit at my nails and watched the clouds roll around along the darkening skyline. The car smelled of lemons and was fabricated with leather. I don’t know anything about cars, but I guessed it was on the older side of the spectrum. It made a funny rattling sound as it rode and the windows didn’t go down all the way.
“Will they like me?” I asked.
Ms. Patty rose an eyebrow. “Who?” 
“The foster family,” I said.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Contemporary Women’s Fiction – Kaylee Nicole Ward

Nothing prepares a human being for loss: that’s what I tell people. Time heals wounds, they would respond. < Quotation marks or italics would indicate to the reader that “Time heals wounds” is not simply narration. “Would” does not agree with the previous sentence. Think about it like this: “When I tell people, they would respond.” That sentence is incorrect. Not scars, however, rarely scars. I’m covered in them. They stripe across my thighs and the inside of my elbows, they leave light dents in the nook of my collarbone. < With the underlined section, I have a hard time understanding what sort of scar this would be. They make a shiny home under my jawline. < Are we still talking about scars or do you mean bruises? Usually scars aren’t “shiny.”  They tell horrid stories that would only normally be heard from convicted criminals. < Do you mean that she got the scars by committing some kind of crime? My first thought is that maybe she murdered someone and got away with it (but maybe I have a dark mind)? I’ve been trying to see past my own reflection, the little black girl made of barely skin and bone and dark sunken eyes, but that’s always easier said than done. My social worker, Ms. Patty, was trying to make me feel better about my first foster home. < I didn’t expect this to be a girl young enough to be in foster care. Now I’m thinking that she was abused rather than that she committed a crime, but that makes the line about criminals a bit confusing to me – what does she mean? I’m also wondering how old she is. She was chattering away about my new parents. < I wouldn’t expect a foster child to refer to foster parents as “new parents” since foster care is generally temporary. As usual, I wasn’t listening. I was watching out the window. The world seemed bigger than it had in years. I felt small.
“Ms. Patty,” I finally spoke up from the backseat of the car.
Ms. Patty looked in the rear view mirror, eyes wide. It still always seems to surprise her when I say anything at all. I’m not entirely sure why. < Is this story being narrated while Ms. Patty is still her social worker? If not, present tense doesn’t make sense here. However, I think it has something to do with the fact that everyone thinks I’m broken or something. “Yes, dear?”
“Please stop talking.” Once it came out it felt too harsh. Though, it got the point across.
Ms. Patty’s eyes saddened, but she nodded. I contemplated apologizing, but decided against it. I knew she would instantly feel better and begin rambling again.
The sky is dark today, grey clouds hovering low. < This seems to be flipping back and forth between past and present tense randomly. This is present tense, but the next line is past tense. I couldn’t see the setting sun on the horizon and all the colors it would paint along the edge of sky. I wish I could. I lost my sense of time inside the rehab center. I bit down my nails and let every withdrawal symptom known to man hit me like a train. < I’m not an expert on rehab centers, but I believe she would not still be having withdrawal symptoms if she was released. Ms. Patty was still watching me, but I was too focused on the sky. < Isn’t Ms. Patty driving the car? It doesn’t seem like she could’ve watched her for this long without wrecking.
“The sky is dark today,” I finally said out loud. I wanted the statement to mean that I was upset by this, but I don’t think I executed it properly.
Ms. Patty smiled at me through the mirror. “It is. I suspect rain this evening.”
I nodded. I didn’t want it to rain on my first day out. I didn’t want the world to be dark and gloomy. I thought I would hear the birds sing, smell the sunshine and feel the heat beating down on my skin. I bit at my nails < She already bit her nails in the previous paragraph. This feels like the same description placed too close to the first one. and watched the clouds roll around along the darkening skyline. The car smelled of lemons and was fabricated with leather. I don’t know anything about cars, but I guessed it was on the older side of the spectrum. It made a funny rattling sound as it rode and the windows didn’t go down all the way. < The wording here makes me wonder if she is younger than I originally thought.
“Will they like me?” I asked.
Ms. Patty rose an eyebrow. “Who?” 
“The foster family,” I said.

 

My Overall Thoughts

I see potential in this for a great voice, a really captivating character, but I don’t think it’s there yet. I spent too much time waffling about who she was (her age, initially) and what was going on (abuse? drugs? crime?). Sometimes things come across in ways writers don’t intend and perhaps that is the case here. It may be clear in your mind, but not on the page.

Key Places to Improve:

  • The voice, behavior, and descriptions would be stronger if they worked together to tell us something about her personality. She opens with describing her scars, which indicates to me that she is wounded and that she feels it defines her enough for it to be her first description of herself. Yet later, she says “everyone thinks I’m broken or something” like she does not believe it’s true. So these two elements seem to be working against each other in establishing a clear picture of her personality. Does she or does she not see herself as wounded? Why does she struggle to see past her wounded appearance only to turn around and seem to not understand why others would view her as broken?
  • You have the opportunity to describe the scars in a way that really hints towards something (perhaps that’s what you’re trying to do?), but I found myself confused about the connection she draws between the scars and criminals. The location of the scars on her thighs and arms suggests self harm, but the jawline and collarbone scars seem more like physical abuse. Yet later when drug use is mentioned, I began to think that perhaps her scars are track marks? I would either keep this deliberately vague (simply mentioning that she has scars) or I would choose locations and descriptions that clearly indicate their source.
  • Watch your tenses. They jump around a lot, which will be a red flag to agents and editors.

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

I’m intrigued enough to want to read on, but I would prefer to have a much stronger understanding of her age and the source of her scars. The tense issues will likely turn off agents and publishers.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

087

Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #32: Crime Fiction

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!

Crime Fiction – David Coldrick

The three Bushmaster armoured cars raced along the road from Tarinkot to Kandahar with their cargos of ten Australian soldiers each. Hemi Parata and James McDonald sat opposite each other in the third car, both lost in thought. They were to be returned to Australia the following week, and unspoken between them was the concern that some damned incident would occur that might interfere with that. The mission for this joyride was supposed to be a cakewalk – guard duty for a village while a visiting Afghan politician glad-handed the punters – but you never knew. The funeral for one of their own, shot by a rogue Afghani trainee, had been just the week before.

They had met in boot camp, and quickly became good friends, going out drinking and chasing girls together. They were both tall – Hemi at 6’6”, James 6’3” – and good-looking, and were quite successful with women. The uniform also helped. Both were amused by the fact that Hemi was the Maori equivalent of James, and that seemed to provide an additional bond between them. They enjoyed the martial arts classes available to ADF members and excelled at the Korean techniques of Hapkido, which Hemi described as “better ways to hit people”.

Hemi was born in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand. He was educated at home by his parents for primary school, then went to Te Awamutu College, about 30 km to the south. The multi-cultural secondary school gave him an interest in the larger world around him. Despite his excellent academic performance through Year 13, he jumped off the treadmill to work in a local garage for a couple of years. He emigrated to Australia, and took Australian citizenship soon after, followed by induction into the Australian Defence Force.

James was born and raised in Sydney to parents who had become wealthy in the local booming real estate market. Attendance – more or less – at excellent private schools failed to make an academic of him. He dropped out, and to the despair of his parents, seemed destined to become a surf bum, a vocation he vigorously pursued on Sydney’s many great beaches. During one of the parties that accompanied his chosen lifestyle, he decided that the ADF was where he wanted to be. Despair no longer described his parents reaction, incredulity was more like it.

Currrump! The front end of the Bushmaster lifted crazily on a tilt before crashing back to the ground. Curses and cries of pain followed. Joe Stone, the soldier manning CROWS was unconscious or dead with a bloody gash in his forehead. Hemi pulled him aside and took his place at the weapon station. He panned the external camera through 360 degrees, looking for a target for the .50-cal machine gun. Nothing. Just a single IED then? The answer came with bursts of small-arms fire from both sides of the road, and Hemi suddenly had more than enough targets. The other two Bushmasters also opened up, and the hostiles went quiet.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Crime Fiction – David Coldrick

The three Bushmaster armoured cars raced along the road from Tarinkot to Kandahar with their cargos of ten Australian soldiers each. Hemi Parata and James McDonald sat opposite each other in the third car, both lost in thought. < Stating that characters are thinking is rarely worthwhile. It’s better to imply or explain what they’re thinking (as in the following sentence). They were to be returned to Australia the following week, and unspoken between them was the concern that some damned incident would occur that might interfere with that. The mission for this joyride was supposed to be a cakewalk < This is the fourth unpublished novel I’ve read in maybe 2-3 months that opened with a mission in Afghanistan or someone reminiscing about a mission in Afghanistan.  So this may not be the best or most unique way to open your novel.  – guard duty for a village while a visiting Afghan politician glad-handed the punters – but you never knew. The funeral for one of their own, shot by a rogue Afghani trainee, had been just the week before.

They had met in boot camp, and quickly became good friends, going out drinking and chasing girls together. They were both tall – Hemi at 6’6”, James 6’3” – and good-looking, and were quite successful with women. < This is a crime/thriller/military cliche – the tall, attractive, lucky with the ladies protagonist. Remember that realism is more important to readers than any positive physical or personality trait. The uniform also helped. Both were amused by the fact that Hemi was the Maori equivalent of James, and that seemed to provide an additional bond between them. They enjoyed the martial arts classes available to ADF members and excelled at the Korean techniques of Hapkido, which Hemi described as “better ways to hit people”. < This paragraph is an info dump. Nothing is happening in the moment.

Hemi was born in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand. He was educated at home by his parents for primary school, then went to Te Awamutu College, about 30 km to the south. The multi-cultural secondary school gave him an interest in the larger world around him. Despite his excellent academic performance through Year 13, he jumped off the treadmill to work in a local garage for a couple of years. He emigrated to Australia, and took Australian citizenship soon after, followed by induction into the Australian Defence Force. < This paragraph is an info dump. I know it can be tempting to give the reader all the background about your characters in a big lump, but it fails to hold the reader’s interest. These characters are vivid and real to you, but to the reader, paragraphs like this are like reading the Facebook profile of someone they don’t know. You haven’t given readers any reason to care about this person so the details of his life are meaningless.

James was born and raised in Sydney to parents who had become wealthy in the local booming real estate market. Attendance – more or less – at excellent private schools failed to make an academic of him. He dropped out, and to the despair of his parents, seemed destined to become a surf bum, a vocation he vigorously pursued on Sydney’s many great beaches. During one of the parties that accompanied his chosen lifestyle, he decided that the ADF was where he wanted to be. Despair no longer described his parents reaction, incredulity was more like it. < This paragraph is another info dump.

Currrump! The front end of the Bushmaster lifted crazily on a tilt before crashing back to the ground. < “Lifted” makes me think it’s physically being raised by something rather than being flung up by an IED.  Curses and cries of pain followed. < This is very distant from your main characters. I’d rather know what they experienced specifically (getting flung to the side, hurting themselves, screaming, etc.) rather than general cursing and cries of pain. Joe Stone, the soldier manning CROWS was unconscious or dead with a bloody gash in his forehead. Hemi pulled him aside and took his place at the weapon station. He panned the external camera through 360 degrees, looking for a target for the .50-cal machine gun. Nothing. Just a single IED then? The answer came with bursts of small-arms fire from both sides of the road, and Hemi suddenly had more than enough targets. The other two Bushmasters also opened up, and the hostiles went quiet.

 

My Overall Thoughts

Part of the reason I chose this opening for First Page Friday is to talk about current cliches and trends in crime fiction and thrillers. It can be difficult to think about our work in terms of marketability (obviously we love what we’re writing!), but sometimes it’s important to consider whether there is enough uniqueness to stand out to agents, editors, or readers.

Across crime fiction and thrillers, this is the fourth opening (out of the 5-6 crime fiction and thrillers I’ve looked at in the last 2-3 months) that has opened with a tall, handsome, lady killer who is or was in Afghanistan. One of those other three novels opened with nearly an identical first chapter (armored vehicle getting hit with an IED during a cakewalk of a mission right before the soldier was supposed to go home).

What does that mean to you? To maximize your odds of getting noticed, you have two options: Blow the competition out of the water with absolutely stellar writing (see key places to improve), or start your novel at a different point, emphasizing what makes it unique.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Info dumping on the first page is never a good idea. The first page is all about pulling the reader into the action (doesn’t have to be literal action, just something going on) and endearing the character to the readers. Info dumps don’t do either of those things. You can learn more about how not to use info dumps in this article.
  • In order to relate to characters, we need to “see” things about them that make us like them. You can use actions (doing something good or proactive) or goals (something they want). You explain that they want to go home, but why? Do they want to see their baby’s face for the first time? The wife they’ve left? Or are they just bored of the military?
  • This is probably my most frequent advice on First Page Friday, but spend time figuring out your hook. What makes this book different? Is it the characters? Is it some element of the plot? What makes this story more valuable to agents, editors, and readers than all the other books with similar subject matter?

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

The info dumps make it very difficult to get invested in the story, and the lack of unique elements in the opening doesn’t provide enough to hook readers and reel them in.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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.

087

Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #31: Science Fiction

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!

Science Fiction – L. Matthew Foster

Once, the rising stars symbolized hope and adventure. Today in Perth, Earth’s defense city, children clenched their eyes while resting in their beds and feared any glance at the stars before sunrise.  From the corner-office conference room, I stared at the star-illuminated waves, crashing against the shoreline. “Ministry of Defense Forces, the Honorable Gilbert Zahn,” a young lieutenant announced. I spun to attention in the leather chair. The leaders, gathered at this strange hour, rose to attention. As customary, the civilians remained seated, but everyone wanted Zahn’s attention. I inched to the chair’s edge and anticipated his entrance. Recalling my first day on the station, indoctrination briefed this tradition as a sign of respect to the civilian’s authority. They were full of shit.

Zahn’s espresso leather loafers squeaked on the concrete floor. He motioned his hand downward for the group to relax. The beaded armrest caught his jacket and disclosed his suit’s silk lining with floral patterns. The sheen from his bespoke sleeves faded when the windows tinted from the tranquil views to white-noise static. The latest pop-diva’s music hummed in the room. These arcane security measures sparked memories of my mentor’s favorite coffee lecture, Security by Obscurity. Tom had ridiculed these procedures. “Do our security teams think music will stop an advanced enemy from listening?” 

My aura sank deeper into the government issued chair and I rubbed the razor scar below my chin line. Tom remained in critical condition after the pressurization accident back on the station. A week ago after grav-ball, I had hit the showers and Tom stayed to stretch. I was in full lather when the alarms burst over the station’s intercom. Half dressed, I slipped into the passageway and found the commotion. The medical techs rushed Tom to the infirmary with a mobile lung respirator hung over his oxygen-deprived body. Now sitting in his chair with a banner streaming his name: Dr. Tom Waldon. I regretted my joke. “Old man, the stretches will kill you before the gravity does.” 

“Good evening,” Zahn said.

 The leaders robotically mumbled back the pleasantry. He headed the oblong table and peered over to Director Lawrence, the head of the Office of Future Warfare (FU-WAR for short). With a cheap grin, Director Lawrence snapped from her chair.

 Director Lawrence gripped the podium and peered down at the group, standing two meters tall. “Today marks the forty-third anniversary of the attack on Hong Kong. On that day, we lost seven million lives and society learned a new enemy lives in our backyard. The enemy has waited and grown their foothold in our solar system.” 

Her lace macramé ankle boots clicked as she paced along the front wall. “Recognizing this historic inflection point, Earth’s strategy to defend against the unknown alien insurgence shifted from protracted land wars with each other to a unified whole-of-world. We were once a society of many, and today we build solidarity.”  She focused on each leader one-at-a-time.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Science Fiction – L. Matthew Foster

Once, the rising stars symbolized hope and adventure. Today in Perth, Earth’s defense city, children clenched their eyes while resting in their beds and feared any glance at the stars before sunrise. < Wouldn’t the stars be gone after sunrise? The wording implies that they can look at the stars after sunrise.  From the corner-office conference room, I stared at the star-illuminated waves, crashing against the shoreline. “Ministry of Defense Forces, the Honorable Gilbert Zahn,” a young lieutenant announced. I spun to attention in the leather chair. The leaders, gathered at this strange hour, rose to attention. < Watch out for using the same phrase so close together. As customary, the civilians remained seated, < I assumed that there were no civilians present based on the previous line. but everyone wanted Zahn’s attention. < Who is everyone? I got the impression this was a small meeting room. How many civilians are present? I inched to the chair’s edge and anticipated his entrance. Recalling my first day on the station, indoctrination briefed this tradition as a sign of respect to the civilian’s authority. They were full of shit.

Zahn’s espresso leather loafers squeaked on the concrete floor. He motioned his hand downward for the group to relax. The beaded armrest < I really can’t imagine what this room is like. I assume only his chair has a beaded armrest? What’s the style of the room as a whole? caught his jacket and disclosed his suit’s silk lining with floral patterns. The sheen from his bespoke sleeves faded when the windows tinted from the tranquil views to white-noise static. < I had to read this line twice to understand what you meant, but that could just be me. The latest pop-diva’s music hummed in the room. These arcane security measures sparked memories of my mentor’s favorite coffee lecture, Security by Obscurity. Tom had ridiculed these procedures. “Do our security teams think music will stop an advanced enemy from listening?” 

My aura sank deeper into the government issued chair and I rubbed the razor scar below my chin line. Tom remained in critical condition after the pressurization accident back on the station. A week ago after grav-ball, I had hit the showers and Tom stayed to stretch. I was in full lather when the alarms burst over the station’s intercom. Half dressed, I slipped into the passageway and found the commotion. The medical techs rushed Tom to the infirmary with a mobile lung respirator hung over his oxygen-deprived body. < Personally, I feel like I don’t know enough about the narrator to be ready for back story. Now sitting in his chair with a banner streaming his name: Dr. Tom Waldon. I regretted my joke. “Old man, the stretches will kill you before the gravity does.” < It’s not clear to me when he made this joke – before, after, or during Tom being transported to the infirmary?

“Good evening,” Zahn said.

 The leaders robotically mumbled back the pleasantry. He headed the oblong table and peered over to Director Lawrence, the head of the Office of Future Warfare (FU-WAR for short). With a cheap grin, Director Lawrence snapped from her chair.

 Director Lawrence < Her name is repeated too many times too close together.gripped the podium and peered down at the group, standing two meters tall. “Today marks the forty-third anniversary of the attack on Hong Kong. On that day, we lost seven million lives and society learned a new enemy lives in our backyard. The enemy has waited and grown their foothold in our solar system.” < I feel like you’re gearing up for an info dump, which I’m not ready for. There’s not been enough to hook me into the story.

Her lace macramé ankle boots clicked as she paced along the front wall. “Recognizing this historic inflection point, Earth’s strategy to defend against the unknown alien insurgence shifted from protracted land wars with each other to a unified whole-of-world. We were once a society of many, and today we build solidarity.”  She focused on each leader one-at-a-time.

My Overall Thoughts

The writing itself has no major problems, but it feels to me like the narrator is an afterthought rather than a key player in this scene. I’m sure there are unique things about the universe you’re writing about that could be used to hook the reader into the story, but this isn’t doing that for me.

Key Places to Improve:

  • I’m not sure where this scene is going, but I’m not convinced it’s the best way to introduce your narrator. He seems to be doing nothing more than sitting and observing (not ideal activities for a main character). It’s not clear to me why he’s there or why the reader should care that he’s there. He has a snarky/sarcastic voice that is very common across all genres these days, but I’m not sure what makes him unique or why readers should care about him.
  • There aren’t enough details for the reader to be able to imagine the scene. I think they’re in some kind of conference room based on the leather chairs, but I don’t really know. There were too many question marks in my mind as I read through this for it to suck me in.
  • Spend some time figuring out the best “hook” for your story. The first page should promise what’s to come. The hook/promise could be a great narrative style, a fascinating conflict, a unique universe, etc. Figure out your “hook” and put it front and center so that your first page really stands out.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

The writing never really drew my attention in a negative way, but it didn’t draw it in a positive way either. The content didn’t excite me, mostly because there seemed to be no connection between the narrator and what was happening in the room.

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you don’t tell me your genre, I cannot choose you for First Page Friday so please include it!

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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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Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #30: Literary Fiction

Announcements

The Future of First Page Friday

For those who are consistent readers, you know that I’ve very seriously considered ending First Page Friday due to a lack of participation, commenting, sharing, etc. Well, over the last few weeks the support for First Page Friday has been amazing and more than exceeded my expectations! So I have decided to keep First Page Friday, but with a few modifications to the submission and selection process to make things easier on me. You can read more about the changes in the “Submit to First Page Friday” section below.

Thanks so much to everyone who made it possible for me to continue the series. By sharing and commenting on the posts, you more than quadrupled First page Friday’s view count! Yay! *High Five*

Novel Boot Camp!

*UPDATE: 40 people have signed up so far so I am greenlighting Novel Boot Camp for July! I’ve also added the first workshop to the schedule and prizes!

I just want to take a moment to let everyone know that I am working on an online class/workshop/blog series called Novel Boot Camp! It’s still in development and I’m looking for feedback, advice, and to get an idea of who plans to participate. So please check it out, vote, leave a comment, and let me know your thoughts!

Guest Posts

Things have been busy, busy, busy for me these last few months! I’m editing about 10 hours per day and will continue to do so for at least the next 5 weeks. As a result, I’ve had less time to devote to my blog.

So I’ve decided to start accepting guest posts from writers, authors, publishers, cover artists, agents, or anyone else who has something interesting and useful to say about the industry. You can learn all about the submission process here.

Since I’m an editor and will be handling the more technical posts on my own, I’m most interested in the writer’s experience – tips, tricks, publishing stories, word processors and other tools, brainstorming, coping with rejection, how you got your agent, marketing, using social media, etc. Any current or past clients (or First Page Friday participants) who want to write about working with me are welcome too!

First Page Friday

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!

Literary Fiction – Helen Evans

He knew straight away, although afterwards he would lie to himself about it. He had a habit of needlessly complicating simple things.

The evening had begun like every other of the holiday. This was the fifth night in a row they’d gone to the same bar. It had not escaped Dan’s notice that, even this far from home, they’d remained creatures of habit, drinking the same drinks, telling the same stories, doing the same things. Routine was their deity, wherever they went, they bowed down before her.

As soon as they’d walked in, the heat of the place began to feel oppressive. Dan glanced behind him at the open door which led temptingly back out onto the beach. It was late, and beyond the bar’s own shallow pool of light lay total blackness, the island’s geography lost in the night, the sound of the ocean drowned out by music and people. He turned to Oli, ‘Your turn, isn’t it?’

‘Nope, it’s yours.’

He looked at Bugsie, ‘Is it?’

Bugsie inclined his head; he never used words where a curt nod would suffice.

Not for the first time since leaving the hotel, Dan checked that his wallet was still in the back pocket of his shorts. Reassured, he then looked slowly about the room, taking in the crowd of customers in all their sun-burnt glory. As usual, the predominant demographic was middle-class students, carefully dressed-down to look like surfers. In amongst their ubiquitous blur of red and tan, one girl immediately stood out, her skin pale and smooth like eggshell. Either her holiday had just begun, or she’d been very careful to avoid the sun. She had long, auburn hair, and fine, black eyebrows. A strapless top showed off her freckled shoulders, and with it she wore a floor length, green sarong that faded to blue at the hem. The women around her, in low-slung, denim shorts and mini-skirts, their tops runched up to show-case their pierced navels, were dressed up for the here and now, whereas this girl seemed to be heading somewhere else entirely.

He flinched as an elbow stabbed in between his ribs, ‘Jesus, Oli. What was that for?’

Oli shook his head, ‘Can we at least get the drinks in before you fall in love yet again with the least available girl in the room?’

To Dan’s left, Bugsie laughed rather too hard. He glanced from one to the other of them,’What are you talking about?’

Oli and Bugsie exchanged pitying looks. Bugsie then, glanced down at his empty right hand and started with surprise, as though shocked to find it didn’t contain a beer bottle, before pointedly looking back at Dan.

He gave up, ‘OK! My round it is then.’

Dan had never just gone up to a woman in a bar, and this night was no exception, but something of the holiday mood must have caught hold of him, because he chose to buy the drinks right next to where the girl was standing.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

Literary Fiction – Helen Evans

He knew straight away, although afterwards he would lie to himself about it. He had a habit of needlessly complicating simple things. < I like this opening. It sets up a solid and clear POV and voice while also giving the reader the promise that something is going to happen. We don’t know what, but we know this isn’t going to be an opening that takes us nowhere.

The evening had begun like every other of the holiday. This was the fifth night in a row they’d gone to the same bar. It had not escaped Dan’s notice that, even this far from home, they’d remained creatures of habit, drinking the same drinks, telling the same stories, doing the same things. Routine was their deity, wherever they went, they bowed down before her.

As soon as they’d walked in, the heat of the place began to feel oppressive. < It’s not a huge deal, but I’m not a fan of things “beginning” to happen. It seems to unnecessarily water statements down. Dan glanced behind him at the open door which led temptingly back out onto the beach. It was late, and beyond the bar’s own shallow pool of light lay total blackness, the island’s geography lost in the night, the sound of the ocean drowned out by music and people. He turned to Oli, ‘Your turn, isn’t it?’

‘Nope, it’s yours.’

He looked at Bugsie, ‘Is it?’

Bugsie inclined his head; he never used words where a curt nod would suffice.

Not for the first time since leaving the hotel, Dan checked that his wallet was still in the back pocket of his shorts. Reassured, he then looked slowly about the room, taking in the crowd of customers in all their sun-burnt glory. As usual, the predominant demographic was middle-class students, carefully dressed-down to look like surfers. In amongst their ubiquitous blur of red and tan, one girl immediately < You’ve used a few adverbs here, but I’m not one of those 100% anti-adverb editors. Still, I recommend shedding them when you can and this one seems disposable. stood out, her skin pale and smooth like eggshell. Either her holiday had just begun, or she’d been very careful to avoid the sun. She had long, auburn hair, and fine, black eyebrows. A strapless top showed off her freckled shoulders, and with it she wore a floor length, green sarong that faded to blue at the hem. The women around her, in low-slung, denim shorts and mini-skirts, their tops runched up to show-case their pierced navels, were dressed up for the here and now, whereas this girl seemed to be heading somewhere else entirely.

He flinched as an elbow stabbed in between his ribs, ‘Jesus, Oli. What was that for?’

Oli shook his head, ‘Can we at least get the drinks in before you fall in love yet again with the least available girl in the room?’

To Dan’s left, Bugsie laughed rather too hard. He glanced from one to the other of them,’What are you talking about?’

Oli and Bugsie exchanged pitying looks. Bugsie then, glanced down at his empty right hand and started with surprise, as though shocked to find it didn’t contain a beer bottle, < Maybe it’s just me, but the first time I read this, I didn’t realize he was doing this to get Dan to buy the beers. I thought it was intended to express some kind of emotional state. You may want to add something like “mock surprise” for clarity. before pointedly looking back at Dan. < There’s a lot of looking and glancing in this section. You may want to cut out one “glance” and one “look” for the sake of diverse descriptions and to not over-control the eye movement of characters, which is something that can (over time) become both tedious and meaningless to readers. 

He gave up, ‘OK! My round it is then.’ < I’m assuming this is Dan speaking, but it’s a tad ambiguous.

Dan had never just gone up to a woman in a bar, and this night was no exception, but something of the holiday mood must have caught hold of him, because he chose to buy the drinks right next to where the girl was standing.
 

My Overall Thoughts

I’m really excited because this makes for two really, really great First Page Friday’s in a row! Your style is very solid. On the first read through, there was really nothing that jumped out at me and made me stop reading. It’s smooth enough that I’d keep reading if I picked this up in a book store or library.

Key Places to Improve:

  • I don’t know if it’s something that becomes an issue (since I’ve only read the first 500 words), but it’s always good to be mindful of how often you control character’s eye movements. In the section I marked above, each glance/look is conveying an emotion, but when possible (especially when eye movements start to get dense as in the section above), it’s a good idea to use another description that conveys the same thing. Over time, glances/looks/stares/etc start to lose meaning to the reader when used frequently. So if you think this may apply to you, “search and replace” on your word processor can help you weed some of them out of your manuscript.
  • The opening line promises something interesting will happen. I would expect that to happen nearly immediately following these first 500 words. If that’s not the case, you may want to follow through on the promise sooner (at least with another hint) so that readers can get the gist of what the book will be about in the 1-5 minutes they might spend looking it over before choosing to buy it or put it back on the shelf.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 4.5

This opening is very solid. The only reason I don’t give it a 5 is because it’s not the type of opening that’s going to make someone automatically request pages, which is really what I base my grading scale on (how likely I think it is a writer will get partial or full requests). This is a very specific type and taste of writing, that I personally really like. If you maintain this quality of writing throughout and pair it with a great plot, I think you should be good to go!

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 OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday (beginning next week) for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
  • Any links you want included with the post (website, Amazon, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.)

Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you need to update or revoke your submission, title your email: UPDATE: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

If you are also interested in my editing or mentoring services, please send a separate email from your First Page Friday submission so that I can address it promptly. I will only open as many submission as it takes for me to select a first page, so I probably won’t get to your email for several weeks.

I will not remove First Page Friday critiques after they are posted, so please do not submit if you are not okay with your work being publicly critiqued on my blog.

I ask that you please comment, vote, and share First Page Friday posts from other authors. It’s courteous to both give and receive help. Thank you!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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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Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #29: Historical Fiction

Thanks for checking out First Page Friday! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments!

If you like First Page Friday, please share it wherever you can! It takes a lot of time to put together the post each week and while I want FPF to succeed, with lower views than my other blog posts, I’m struggling to find the time to continue the series. Thanks to all my wonderful supporters! I truly appreciate it!

Novel Boot Camp!

I just want to take a moment to let everyone know that I am working on an online class/workshop/blog series called Novel Boot Camp! It’s still in development and I’m looking for feedback, advice, and to get an idea of who plans to participate. So please check it out, vote, leave a comment, and let me know your thoughts!

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!

Historical Fiction – Anonymous

As a child I used to press my ear to my pillow, listening to the steady swoosh of my heartbeat, praying it would continue through the night. I was afraid the magic that kept it beating would vanish, and death would find me. What a foolish thought that had been – to fear death.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here; maybe six months, maybe a year. I don’t keep track like the others: time has no place for me in this frozen land. If not for my hate, which is stronger than my misery, or for the promise I gave my sister Olga – who has never broken a promise to me – I’d gladly let the cold carry me away. Perhaps that day will come, when even the fires of hate cannot see me through this darkness. But not today. Today I will not feed my soul to the beast: let Stalin find his dinner elsewhere. Before the gulag I was a girl afraid of death, and now I’m a woman who teases herself with the notion of finding it.

My father would be proud that I have finally become brave. With nothing left to lose, bravery comes easily.

I wonder if being torn from such wealth and comfort means that I have lost more than most who were already starving, cold, and alone. I try not to think of my family, and the life I had, but it’s difficult to keep my mind within these walls. Sometimes I hear my mother call for me as I work. Her voice is warm and soothing against my chapped skin, carrying with it the scent of sweet bread and lamb stew, making my mouth water and my heart hunger. Time and again, I close my eyes and pray her voice will finally wake me from this nightmare. Always opening them to the other women cramped in this workhouse, with my limbs tangled painfully in the barb of hope. I no longer hope, as it will only bleed you slowly.

It’s easy to spot the new ones in camp. Their skin has a greenish tint with the whites of their eyes yellowing from months spent cramped in transport cattle cars, unbearably thick with the stench of urine. Seeing their gaunt faces and hollowed eyes, I am reminded of my own harrowing journey. A short eternity spent living off small chunks of frozen bread, which the guards would toss at us through the barred windows. We would scramble like packed pigeons, hoping to catch the bread before it hit the soiled floor. Even then, most of us would still eat the foul pieces, so desperate were we to ease the pain in our bellies – only to trade one sort of pain for another.

When the cries faded and the lined faces turned soft, we knew death had come. He was all around us; calm, and patiently waiting. And so tempted was I to say his name.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

Historical Fiction – Anonymous

As a child I used to press my ear to my pillow, listening to the steady swoosh of my heartbeat, praying it would continue through the night. <I almost love this opening line but the two “ing” verbs weaken what could be a really punchy opening. This is mostly just a quibble because I feel like you have the chops to write an opening line that’s truly stunning. I was afraid the magic that kept it beating would vanish, and death would find me. What a foolish thought that had been – to fear death.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here; maybe six months, maybe a year. I don’t keep track like the others: time has no place for me in this frozen land. If not for my hate, which is stronger than my misery, or for the promise I gave my sister Olga – who has never broken a promise to me – I’d gladly let the cold carry me away. Perhaps that day will come, when even the fires of hate cannot see me through this darkness. But not today. Today I will not feed my soul to the beast: let Stalin find his dinner elsewhere. Before the gulag I was a girl afraid of death, and now I’m a woman who teases herself with the notion of finding it.

My father would be proud that I have finally become brave. With nothing left to lose, bravery comes easily.< Again, a minor quibble. I don’t like the repeated “y” sound of “bravery” and “easily.” But this is a matter of opinion.

I wonder if being torn from such wealth and comfort means that I have lost more than most, who < The comma here is necessary as there’s a significant difference in meaning without it.  were already starving, cold, and alone. I try not to think of my family, and the life I had, but it’s difficult to keep my mind within these walls. Sometimes I hear my mother call for me as I work. Her voice is warm and soothing against my chapped skin, carrying with it the scent of sweet bread and lamb stew, making my mouth water and my heart hunger. Time and again, I close my eyes and pray her voice will finally wake me from this nightmare. Always opening them to the other women cramped in this workhouse, with my limbs tangled painfully in the barb of hope. I no longer hope, as it will only bleed you slowly.

It’s easy to spot the new ones in camp. < It’s not clear if she’s looking at them now or if this is simply a thought. Giving her physical presence and/or making it clear that she’s simply thinking would help with clarity. Their skin has a greenish tint with the whites of their eyes yellowing from months spent cramped in transport cattle cars, unbearably thick with the stench of urine. Seeing their gaunt faces and hollowed eyes, I am reminded of my own harrowing journey. A short eternity spent living off small chunks of frozen bread, which the guards would toss at us through the barred windows. We would scramble like packed pigeons, hoping to catch the bread before it hit the soiled floor. Even then, most of us would still eat the foul pieces, so desperate were we to ease the pain in our bellies – only to trade one sort of pain for another.

When the cries faded and the lined faces turned soft, we knew death had come. He was all around us; calm, and patiently waiting. And so tempted was I to say his name.

 

My Overall Thoughts

Wow! A strong style, lovely rhythm to the words, great characterization, and depth in nearly every line makes this an opening worth paying attention to.

Key Places to Improve:

  • I really think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this. Aside from a couple of nit picky line edits, I can’t see much that could be improved upon other than clearing up that last paragraph – is she actually looking at the new comers or just thinking about them?
  • The personification of death may bring up immediate comparisons with The Book Thief, especially given the similar subject matter. However, since your writing is strong, I don’t think this comparison will be something that drags you down unless too many aspects are similar later on. I don’t see that being the case, but still feel it’s worth mentioning.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 4.5

I almost gave this a 5, but I really wanted a first line that punched me in the gut because I know you have the writing chops to pull it off. Adding that to the vagueness of the last paragraph just barely bumps this down a half point. The bottom line: if this is finished, so long as your structure is good, I can’t imagine you struggling much to get agents to bite. So go query! If it’s not done, finish it!

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.

Connect with the Author

http://donald-robinson.blogspot.com/

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

The future of First Page Friday is uncertain. These posts don’t get as many views or shares as my other blog posts, and they get just a fraction of the views of my videos, so I’m considering applying the time I normally spend on First Page Friday towards something with a wider appeal. I’m still undecided. It will depend on whether views increase over the next few weeks.

You can help First Page Friday succeed by sharing the posts across the web. Thanks for your support!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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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Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #28: YA Fantasy

Thanks for checking out First Page Friday! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments!

If you like First Page Friday, please share it wherever you can! It takes a lot of time to put together the post each week and while I want FPF to succeed, with lower views than my other blog posts, I’m struggling to find the time to continue the series. Thanks to all my wonderful supporters! I truly appreciate it!

Novel Boot Camp!

I just want to take a moment to let everyone know that I am working on an online class/workshop/blog series called Novel Boot Camp! It’s still in development and I’m looking for feedback, advice, and to get an idea of who plans to participate. So please check it out, vote, leave a comment, and let me know your thoughts!

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!

YA Fantasy – Donald A. Robinson

Rivers of fire raced down his cheeks. The fiery tears stung his face as they scorched deep ravines across his icy, bloodstained face. His breath grew rapid and shallow as he tried desperately to staunch the bleeding only he saw. Her body lay frozen beneath his hands. Auburn hair lay listlessly to one side; dull, lifeless, and matted with blood. Rosy red cheeks grew pale as her hazel eyes faded to gray. Dozens of black figures rushed towards them. He knew they would be upon him soon, but the only thing on his mind was making her awaken. The air echoed with the sounds of battle as steel clashed upon steel and arcane blasts exploded upon the scarred landscape. Screams of pain and anguish crescendoed as the violence escalated. His desperation muffled the sound of it all as he struggled to save her. Through the chaos, a soft whisper caught his attention.

“She’s… not breathing.”

Tears flowed endlessly from his eyes He turned to face the crawling figure. He tried to speak, but his voice was void of all sound. He looked back down at the cold, pale body of what was once his love. Then, he turned his palms face-up to see the congealed blood on his hands. He screamed out with what voice he could muster, and pounded her chest; a last ditched effort to make her breath.

“She’s gone! Let her go…”

Gasping, he shot straight up to a seated position.

A dream. That dream. More like a nightmare. Or was it some kind of warning? 

All he knew was he had the same dream every night for the last week. His shirt clung to his body; the sweat cool against his back. Eric leaned forward, and placed a hand to his forehead and the other to the bed. Something was wrong. His hand coiled back as he touched dew-covered grass. The breeze picked up. Eric’s entire body shivered from the icy caress. Squinting up to the fading star-studded sky, he recognized none of the constellations- a fact he attributed to his poor eyesight.

Where am I? And, where are my glasses?

Eric tried to stay calm despite the cold, strange night he had woken up to find. Pulling his arms into his shirt, Eric set off towards the hint of a sunrise. His eyes seldom left the ground as he trudged through the cold, wet grass.

Dreary, morning sunlight filtered through the clouds ahead of him. He was not sure where he going, but he knew he was traveling east. He walked for what he believed was no more than an hour. Acrid wisps of smoke caught his attention. He searched for the source. Billows of smoke to his left clued him in as to where the stench originated. He hoped this would be his best chance to find someone, and maybe get warm.

 

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

YA Fantasy – Donald A. Robinson

Rivers of fire raced down his cheeks. The fiery < “Fire” and “fiery” feels repetitive to me. tears stung his face as they scorched deep ravines across his icy, bloodstained face. < I’m not sure if you’re being literal or figurative here. His breath grew rapid and shallow as he tried desperately to staunch the bleeding only he saw. Her body lay frozen beneath his hands. Auburn hair lay listlessly to one side; dull, lifeless, and matted with blood. Rosy red cheeks grew pale as her hazel eyes faded to gray. < There are a ton of colors in this sentence. It feels like overkill. Dozens of black figures rushed towards them. He knew they would be upon him soon, but the only thing on his mind was making her awaken. < “Making her awaken” reads as very awkward and unnatural. The air echoed with the sounds of battle as steel clashed upon steel and arcane blasts exploded upon the scarred landscape. Screams of pain and anguish crescendoed as the violence escalated. His desperation muffled the sound of it all as he struggled to save her. < Show his struggle. Make the reader feel it. Give details. Through the chaos, a soft whisper caught his attention.

“She’s… not breathing.”

Tears flowed endlessly from his eyes < Crying early in a book doesn’t have an emotional effect on the reader. We don’t know who this character is or why we should care. He turned to face the crawling figure. He tried to speak, but his voice was void of all sound. < His voice being void of sound seems like an odd description to me. His voice is the sound, so without it, he has no voice, not a voice with no sound. He looked back down at the cold, pale body of what was once his love. Then, he turned his palms face-up to see the congealed blood on his hands. He screamed out with what voice he could muster, and pounded her chest; a last ditched effort to make her breath. < This level of drama as an opening scene is near impossible to pull off. It’s just too easy to come across as melodramatic. 

“She’s gone! Let her go…”

Gasping, he shot straight up to a seated position.

A dream. That dream. More like a nightmare. Or was it some kind of warning?  < This was really jarring. I didn’t realize when he shot straight up he was waking up. You mentioned you watched my videos, so I’m sure you’re aware that opening with a dream is a major no-no.

All he knew was he had the same dream every night for the last week. His shirt clung to his body; the sweat cool against his back. Eric leaned forward, and placed a hand to his forehead and the other to the bed. Something was wrong. His hand coiled back as he touched dew-covered grass. < Did he sit up with his eyes clothes? How did he not already notice that he was outside? The breeze picked up. Eric’s entire body shivered from the icy caress. Squinting up to the fading star-studded sky, he recognized none of the constellations- a fact he attributed to his poor eyesight.

Where am I? And, where are my glasses?

Eric tried to stay calm despite the cold, strange night he had woken up to find. < Show that he’s trying to stay calm. Don’t just tell the reader. Pulling his arms into his shirt, Eric set off towards the hint of a sunrise. His eyes seldom left the ground as he trudged through the cold, wet grass. < You’ve used “cold” twice here and “icy” twice in one page. Be careful about repetition.

Dreary, morning sunlight filtered through the clouds ahead of him. He was not sure where he going, but he knew he was traveling east. He walked for what he believed was no more than an hour. Acrid wisps of smoke caught his attention. He searched for the source. Billows of smoke to his left clued him in as to where the stench originated. He hoped this would be his best chance to find someone, and maybe get warm. < He doesn’t seem nearly disturbed enough about waking up outside. Is this a normal occurrence?

 

My Overall Thoughts

You’re opening with two cliches: the death of a loved one and waking up from a dream. Both of these are big enough issues in themselves to warrant a trip back to the drawing board.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Nothing about this seems YA to me. Is the protagonist a teenager? If so, make that clear.
  • The narrative distance feels too far away. I can’t really tell based on this short sample, but I think you’re writing in omniscient. That’s not inherently bad, but it’s pretty rare in YA – mostly because it eliminates the teenage voice that makes YA work and because it’s generally fallen out of vogue with young readers. If you go with it, make sure you’re not keeping the narration so far from your character that he’s not easy to relate to. If you don’t intend to write in omniscient, you may want to check out Developing a Solid Third Person POV.
  • Don’t try to sound “writerly” or to word things in an unusual way. Clarity is what’s most important. Particularly in YA, descriptions should be pretty straightforward and casual.
  • Showing more helps the reader connect with the story as well as the character. Check out my post on Showing vs. Telling for more info.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 1

Opening with a dream is a fatal flaw. Other than that, this doesn’t have a YA feel to it, which will cause agents/editors/readers to put it down pretty quick.

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.

Connect with the Author

http://donald-robinson.blogspot.com/

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

The future of First Page Friday is uncertain. These posts don’t get as many views or shares as my other blog posts, and they get just a fraction of the views of my videos, so I’m considering applying the time I normally spend on First Page Friday towards something with a wider appeal. I’m still undecided. It will depend on whether views increase over the next few weeks.

You can help First Page Friday succeed by sharing the posts across the web. Thanks for your support!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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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Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!

First Page Friday #27: YA Paranormal Romance

Thanks for checking out First Page Friday! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments!

I’ve been a bit quieter than usual lately, which some of you may have noticed if you subscribe on YouTube and to the blog. I am currently booked solid (10-11 hour days!) for at least the next 6-8 weeks, so I don’t have as much time to keep the blog and YouTube going as I did before. That said, I have lots of posts and videos planned, so don’t go away!

If you like First Page Friday, please share it wherever you can! It takes a lot of time to put together the post each week and while I want FPF to succeed, with lower views than my other blog posts, I’m struggling to find the time to continue the series. Thanks to all my wonderful supporters! I truly appreciate it!

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!

YA Paranormal Romance – Denise Drespling

The idea of ghosts did not scare Claire O’Neill. She’d seen them before, and it was no big deal. With mild amusement, she observed her younger sister, Tara, and her friends as they scooted into a circle on
the basement floor and attempted to contact a spirit. Bright pink candles filled the air with sickening strawberry and illuminated their glittering purple nail polish. Only thirteen-year-old girls at a slumber party would consider it entertaining to conduct a séance between makeovers and chick flicks.

“Oh, great spirits,” Tara said in a voice deep and spooky, “speak to us. Give us a sign that you’re here.”

The lights did not flicker. They heard no strange noises. Not so much as a well-timed clap of thunder convinced the girls a spirit had joined them. Claire rolled her eyes and returned her attention to her homework.

“It’s not working,” Jessica whined.

Emily shrugged. “Maybe all the ghosts are busy.”

“Hey, Claire.” Tara pulled away from the small circle and approached her sister, who sat on the couch at the back of the basement. “How do you do a séance?”

Claire glanced up. “Pretty sure you need a Ouija board.”

Between ninth grade math problems, bits of the girls’ conversation floated to Claire. How would they get a Ouija board? Draw one? Print one from the internet? Dig the old one out of the attic?

“There’s a free app!” Liz tapped the screen of her iPad several times and set the device in the center of the circle.

The girls crowded together. Elbows and knees tangled over cries of discomfort.

“Ow!”

“Watch it!”

“You poked me!”

The circle tightened until they each touched the iPad with two fingers. Claire stifled a snicker. They looked like a wiggling lump of bouncing hair and neon clothing.

“It’s moving!” Emily said.

“What’s it saying?” Tara asked.

“I… M… H… R… I’m here!” Liz said. “It’s spelling out, ‘I’m here!'”
Right. Claire knew how these things worked. Someone always moved it, then claimed they hadn’t.

“Where are you?” Jessica asked the spirit.

Tara smacked her arm. “It just told us. It’s _here._ Duh.”

“What should we ask it?” Jessica said.

Claire muttered a response to herself. “Ask it to bring you a boyfriend.”

Tara again used her spooky voice. “Oh, spirit of the basement, tell us your name.”

“No, never mind,” Claire mumbled again, “Bring _me _a boyfriend. You’re all complete morons.”

“B… R… N…” Emily said.

“Well, that’s stupid,” Tara said. “B-R-N doesn’t spell anything. We must have a dumb ghost.”

Claire heard an exasperated sigh beside her. She looked toward the sound, but saw nothing unusual. The room remained dim, lit by candlelight and a lamp. A pile of pillows, blankets, and backpacks sat
in a heap against the wall. The flat TV on its wooden stand was an empty, black window. Her notebook lay on her lap, the half-finished math homework staring up at her from the page. Her pencil waited
patiently in her tight grip.

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.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics.

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

YA Paranormal Romance – Denise Drespling

The idea of ghosts did not scare Claire O’Neill. < This has the possibility of becoming a strong opening. She’d seen them before, and it was no big deal. < This sentence sort of fizzles what could have built to an exciting opening. It’s too vague and flippant to be intriguing. I don’t know the story enough to make a good suggestion, but try for something with a lot of hook. Something “meaty” that makes readers HAVE to keep reading. With mild amusement, she observed her younger sister, Tara, and her friends as they scooted into a circle on the basement floor and attempted to contact a spirit. < This sentence could rely more on showing. Bright pink candles filled the air with sickening strawberry and illuminated their glittering purple nail polish. < Orange words are adjectives. Too many are crammed into this sentence. Only thirteen-year-old girls at a slumber party would consider it entertaining to conduct a séance between makeovers and chick flicks.

“Oh, great spirits,” Tara said in a voice deep and spooky, “speak to us. Give us a sign that you’re here.”

The lights did not flicker. They heard no strange noises. Not so much as a well-timed clap of thunder convinced the girls a spirit had joined them. < I don’t know what POV we’re in here. It reads more like omniscient than like Claire’s perspective. Claire rolled her eyes and returned her attention to her homework.

“It’s not working,” Jessica whined.

Emily shrugged. “Maybe all the ghosts are busy.”

“Hey, Claire.” Tara pulled away from the small circle and approached her sister, who sat on the couch at the back of the basement. < This definitely does not feel like it’s coming from Claire’s POV. “How do you do a séance?”

Claire glanced up. “Pretty sure you need a Ouija board.”

Between ninth grade math problems, < If she’s in ninth grade, that would make her sister only one year younger than her. I expected the age difference to be much more significant. bits of the girls’ conversation floated to Claire. How would they get a Ouija board? Draw one? Print one from the internet? Dig the old one out of the attic?

“There’s a free app!” Liz tapped the screen of her iPad several times and set the device in the center of the circle.

The girls crowded together. Elbows and knees tangled over cries of discomfort. < This sentence doesn’t read right. Almost like you’re saying “Elbows and knees tangled because of cries of discomfort.”

“Ow!”

“Watch it!”

“You poked me!” < Why/how would someone get poked when they’re sitting in a circle?

The circle tightened until they each touched the iPad with two fingers. Claire stifled a snicker. They looked like a wiggling lump of bouncing hair and neon clothing.

“It’s moving!” Emily said.

“What’s it saying?” Tara asked.

“I… M… H… R… I’m here!” Liz said. “It’s spelling out, ‘I’m here!'”
Right. Claire knew how these things worked. Someone always moved it, then claimed they hadn’t.

“Where are you?” Jessica asked the spirit.

Tara smacked her arm. “It just told us. It’s _here._ Duh.”

“What should we ask it?” Jessica said.

Claire muttered a response to herself. “Ask it to bring you a boyfriend.” < Claire is getting lost in this scene. At first I thought this was one of the girls around the Ouija board.

Tara again used her spooky voice. “Oh, spirit of the basement, tell us your name.”

“No, never mind,” Claire mumbled again, “Bring _me _a boyfriend. You’re all complete morons.” < I had to read this three times to understand who she was saying “No, never mind” to.

“B… R… N…” Emily said.

“Well, that’s stupid,” Tara said. “B-R-N doesn’t spell anything. We must have a dumb ghost.”

Claire heard an exasperated sigh beside her. She looked toward the sound, but saw nothing unusual. < I would shorten this whole paragraph to something like: “She turned, but there was nothing but the cracked cement wall.” Most of the details included in the paragraph feel irrelevant, sort of like a “laundry list” of details.  The room remained dim, < “Remained” seems like a strange word choice here. Did she think it wouldn’t remain dim? lit by candlelight and a lamp. A pile of pillows, blankets, and backpacks sat in a heap against the wall. The flat TV on its wooden stand was an empty, black window. Her notebook lay on her lap, the half-finished math homework staring up at her from the page. Her pencil waited patiently in her tight grip.

 

 

My Overall Thoughts

I think you’re losing track of who this story is about. There’s more focus on the little girls than on Claire. The reader should feel like they’re sitting right next to Claire, not looking at Claire from the circle of girls. If you think of your narration as a camera – the camera is in the wrong place, which is also making the POV read a bit off.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Claire’s sister and her friends read more like ten or eleven to me than thirteen, especially in the dialogue.
  • This opening has a sort of “name soup” going on – way too many names for a first page. It was hard to keep track of who was who, especially when we didn’t sit with Claire long enough to attach to her.
  • Claire needs more personality. She’s currently reading a bit like a stock “big sister” character rather than a strong lead. One of the primary goals of the first page should be to attach the reader to the main character, which comes from emotional closeness (the character wants something the reader can sympathize with) or by being proactive (the character is trying to accomplish something tangible the reader can root for her to achieve).
  • The POV needs to be more clearly established. If this is third limited, stay tighter on Claire and give the narration more of her voice.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 2

There’s just no hook here for me. Ouija board scenes have been done lots of times and this one isn’t introducing a new or unique element. The opportunity to create a strong hook about Claire seeing ghosts in the first paragraph fell a bit flat. And Claire herself does not play a prominent enough role in the opening. Had the opening paragraph been eliminated, I would’ve felt that this was a story about the little girls rather than Claire.

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.

Connect with the Author

Links:

http://www.denisedrespling.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DeniseDrespling
https://twitter.com/DeniseDrespling
plus.google.com/+DeniseDresplingAuthor

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6209436-denise-drespling

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

The future of First Page Friday is uncertain. These posts don’t get as many views or shares as my other blog posts, and they get just a fraction of the views of my videos, so I’m considering applying the time I normally spend on First Page Friday towards something with a wider appeal. I’m still undecided. It will depend on whether views increase over the next few weeks.

You can help First Page Friday succeed by sharing the posts across the web. Thanks for your support!

***A few people have emailed asking if they can have a private first page critique. I am more than happy to do that, but due to being completely booked (I’m working 10-11 hour days!), I have to charge $25 for private, offline first page critiques. Thanks for understanding!***

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.

087

Help First Page Friday Succeed!  Please use the buttons below to share this post. The more views, the more submissions, the more First Page Fridays!