Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors.We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
And now we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor Natasha Raulerson
Natasha Raulerson grew up as a tomboy hanging with the guys, getting skinned knees, and swimming in the South Florida sun.Though she’s more inclined to wear dresses now, she still prefers a good pair of chucks and comfy pair of jeans. Tattoos, Jack Daniels, and hanging at the pool are three of her favorite things. An author of adult romantic suspense, by day she writes about the characters driving her imagination wild. By night she enjoys a good book, hanging with her hubs and getting snuggle attacks from her two spoiled pups.
I’m represented by the amazing Laura Bradford of The Bradford Literary Agency.
Natasha’s 500 Word Critique . . .
Adult Soft Science Fiction
Hi Angela! First off, thanks so much for letting me read over your work. The first 500 words are very important to establish the beginning of the story and draw the reader in. Sometimes it can take a while to find the voice of the story. This beginning is slow. I have no idea who the protagonist is and nothing that connects me to her/him (I’m not even sure the gender). So essentially I feel you started in the wrong spot. Also, the writing is very stiff, almost over written. I don’t feel like you’ve relaxed into your voice to tell me a unique story.
I shifted my body again, trying to ensure I was positioned as far from Amelia as possible in the tight space, Why? In 500 words this isn’t explained. Don’t drop something and then not explain it. You can try something like: Amelia sat across from me in the tight space of the (what are they even riding in?). Tension flooded the small space between us. This was our first mission together since we broke up six months ago. and fixed my gaze outside the window. The hypnotic monotony gave way to a large blue mass materializing on the horizon. As we neared, the mass became recognizable I’m not sure why you’re trying to be mysterious here. Also, hypnotic monotony of what? as the outline of Palmer Station, our destination. Leaving the icy blue waters behind, we began our descent onto the frozen tundra of Anvers Island, which housed the station. So this whole paragraph is a lot of scene setting, but nothing is actually happening other than a silent car ride.
The helicopter alit on the landing pad, the propellers creating swirling vortexes of soft powder. This is nice description, but it would have been nice to know they were riding in a helicopter to begin with. A man shrouded in a thick, fur-trimmed coat with a tightly drawn hood emerged from a nearby building. He opened the door, allowing the biting Arctic air to come rushing in, and grabbed several bags of luggage. He motioned for us to follow him inside, and Amelia and I eagerly complied. Though I had dressed for the weather, the freezing temperatures seemed to penetrate to my very bones, and I was eager to escape the piercing wind that persisted even as the propellers slowed their blustery whirling. This is all telling. Show me how the weather effected him/her.
When the warmth of the building had enveloped us, the man who had led us inside spoke. Awkward syntax. “Hello. I’m Colonel James Champione,” he said, shaking hands with Amelia and me. I recognized the voice and the name as belonging to the man who had contacted me about participating in this expedition. He had a firm grip, fitting for a man of his authority.
“Hi Jim,” Amelia replied.
I clenched my jaw, sniffing. “I don’t believe you should address him so informally. He is your superior.” Speaking of formal, this dialogue is pretty stiff.
“Oh, that’s all right,” he replied. “Call me Jim, James, Colonel Champione, sir – it doesn’t matter. I answer to them all. By the way, it’s nice to meet you both in person. Welcome to Palmer Station, your new home – at least for a little while. I’m sure you’re curious about why you’ve been called here, but we’ll get to that in a moment.” At this point we’ve gone through several paragraphs and it’s still slow paced with not much happening.
The heat of the building was nearly overwhelming after the freezing cold. I tore Tore sounds very violent. my coat and hat off, and Jim and Amelia did the same. Jim pointed to the empty cubbies that lined the walls, indicating that we should hang our outerwear there. I was hesitant to leave my coat in such a public space, but I didn’t see the point in arguing.Why? I proceeded as directed, silently congratulating myself for packing disinfectant.
Even without his coat, Jim was an imposing figure. His squared shoulders and stocky build hinted at the training and discipline it had endured while he was in active duty. Despite his youthfully brawny physique, time had left its mark in the lines on his leathered skin and the peppering of white in his cropped hair. I estimated that he was somewhere in his fifties or sixties, an appropriately experienced age for someone of his position. This is an info dump and not needed. Drop lines about his description as they interact. Show instead of tell.
I glanced at Amelia as she hung up her coat, her cheeks still rosy from the cold air. Her hair glistened as the light caught the droplets of melting snow. As she swept her curls over her shoulder, she glanced back at me and smiled. I could feel the heat rising to my face, and I quickly glanced away.Why? Things were tense with them in the beginning? Now he/she is blushing? I had no need for friends, and I didn’t want to give any false notions to this impressionable young woman. Seems random and a bit of judgy to say she’s impressionable. Is she not on the same mission or whatever as the protagonist?
Okay, so overall, I think you started in the wrong place. Don’t fret! We all do it. Right now though I don’t feel any characterization. There’s too much scene setting and description fluff that doesn’t need to bet here. It’s all very stiff and somewhat over-written. Everything is so vague I really have no idea what’s happening other than they went to a station of some sort. Be specific in your story. Shrouding everything in so much mystery doesn’t let a reader connect and you NEED that connection.
Again, thanks for letting me read! Good luck and I hoped I offered something to help!
Thank you, Natasha, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice workshops? Come back this afternoon for another critique. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.