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Day Eight of July’s First Page Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentors … Wendy Spinale & K.T. Hanna

Friday, 10 July 2015  |  Posted by Brenda

B 1st page workshop

Welcome to July’s First Page Workshop with some of our past and present PitchWars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected many wonderful writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a first page for one lucky writer. The writers are anonymous. Follow along all month to view the first page critiques. We welcome comments and further suggestions, but please keep them kind and respectful.

Here are the next two mentors and their critiques …

 

WendyWendy Spinale

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Wendy is a former Disneyland resort actor and is in familiar with all things make-believe. She lives in the California with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her enjoying the outdoors.

Keep a look out for her debut novel EVERLAND, coming May 2016.

Here’s a preview of EVERLAND …

Below the second star to the right lie the ruins of London. Now they call it Everland.

Sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling has survived the bombs, a deadly viral outbreak, and the annihilation of most of the adult population, however she may not survive the next twenty-four hours. Captain Hook believes the cure to the airborne Horologia virus lies within the antibodies of London’s orphaned children. He and his army of Marauders are snatching the war’s littlest victims off the streets in a desperate attempt to find an antidote. Gwen must protect her two siblings from becoming their next abductions. When Hook’s army kidnaps her sister, Joanna, Gwen journeys deep into the city with the help of Pete, Bella, and a quirky group of Lost Boys. There she will uncover the truth about the virus…but only if she can outrun Hook’s crocodiles, zeppelins, and convoy of Steam Crawlers.

In Everland, growing up requires more than faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.

Wendy’s first page critique …

I’m in the bathroom gargling with mouthwash when (Your second sentence is stronger than you’re first.) Nobody visits us at one in the morning. (I’m in the bathroom gargling with mouthwash when the doorbell rings.) Dad must have forgotten his keys. What an irony. Ironic. Before leaving for his New Year’s Eve ball, he’d teased me about how much later I’d return home than he would. Yay, a kick in his ass. (Awesome! Right off that bat I can tell she’s a snarky personality.) I spit out the minty mouthwash gargle, along with the stench of alcohol off my breath, then open the door and step into the hallway.

One of my glitter ankle boots lies beside an ebony pedestal by the library door, sparkling under the Christmas tree lights. (Beautiful imagery.) The other boot is missing–maybe in the closet or the bathroom. (Hmm, she just had it on. Why would it be in the closet? Maybe she had a Cinderella moment and lost it on her way home? Just an idea.) Oh, well. The bell rings again. I scurry (Scurry is too passive of a word for your MC. Consider dart, stomp, rush, bolt, march…come up with a more active verb.) to the foyer and (yank, jerk, swing…again find another active verb. After all she thinks it’s her dad and she’s probably going to give him some sass for losing his keys and being home after her.) open the door.

It’s not Dad. Outside the apartment door are stand a stocky man and Joan Bishop,–the retired movie star who lives upstairs. I haven’t seen her for a few years but her blonde hair hasn’t changed a bit. The vibrancy of the shade still resembles that of the Léon Comerre’s portrait (I’m on the fence with this reference. While I love that you are comparing her, I’m not sure your average teenager is going to know what this portrait is. You might consider using a more contemporary artist. Just a suggestion.) in her foyer. The hair is too golden to be “never dyed” as she used to claim. After all, she’s older than Mom and Dad combined.

“Hi, Joan,” (Would she call her Joan or Ms. Bishop? Especially since she’s not close to the family.) I say. “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year, Amanda.” Her voice is a little dry and her breath carries a flowery champagne scent. She rubs… watch out for places you can cut passive writing.’s rubbing her hands and wiggling wiggles a little, like she wants to hug me but is hesitant in front of the man. (I’m not all sold on the hug. It’s clear that even though they are neighbors, they’re not close enough to really be affectionate. Amanda has been in her foyer at least once to see the portrait, but she also hasn’t seen her in years, which makes me think that maybe Joan Bishop is a recluse. Also keep in mind that you’re trying to set tone within these first 250 words. Without have the next section to read, I’m going to assume she’s there with bad news. So use this opportunity to make her voice tremble and a stiff posture. Also this is an opportunity to play with your props. Maybe she has a purse strap she’s twisting, an earring she’s fidgeting with, or she’s teetering on her high heels. Depending on what kind of accessories she’s wearing and what she’s doing with those accessories can tell us a lot about her character.)

I’m definitely intrigued by what you have here. Your voice comes through really well in this short piece. I’m a big fan of using all five senses if you can get them in opening scenes and you’ve done that well with the glittering shoes, the scent of alcohol and champagne, and the sound of the doorbell. Great job and good luck to you!

 

Me SquaredK.T. Hanna

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook

KT Hanna has a love for words so extreme, a single word can spark entire worlds.

Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically out to kill you.

Her debut CHAMELEON releases August 4th, 2015. When she’s not writing, she freelance edits for Chimera Editing, interns for a NYC Agency, and chases her daughter, husband, corgi, and cat. No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, and beef jerky.

Note: Still searching for her Tardis

K.T.’s upcoming release …

CHAMELEON Domino Project Front with Text 2CHAMELEON (THE DOMINO PROJECT #1) – YA SciFi – Release 8/04/2015

When Sai’s newly awoken psionic powers accidentally destroy her apartment complex, she’s thrown into an intensive training program. Her only options are pass or die.

Surviving means proving her continued existence isn’t a mistake–a task her new mentor, Bastian, takes personally. Her abilities place her in the GNW Enforcer division, and partners her with Domino 12, who is eerily human for an alien-parasite psionic hybrid.

After eliminating an Exiled scientist, she discovers someone is manipulating everything. With each mission more perilous, Sai must figure out who to trust before her next assignment becomes her last.

Preorder Now!

Amazon | Local Watermark Books – IndieBound

 

K.T.’s first page critique …

The call would change the course of three lives. This is foreshadowing and by including this here you’ve already detracted from the tension because I know that this phone call is changing lives. You’ve told me. Don’t tell me, show me.

I would consider starting here:

The sprigs of grass that forced their way through the hard Georgia clay were brown and stiff, as if they too had taken the easy way out. Hadley Bishop set her phone on a table in front of the gas station convenience store. Not exactly her idea of a picnic spot but after buying gas and a snack, she’d opted for enjoying the unseasonably warm January morning. She peeled the banana and refused to consider the stop a stalling tactic.

It looked as though her fruit was the closest this spot had ever come to an actual picnic. If the cigarette butts scattered on the ground were any indication, the employees used this spot for smoke breaks. Even the sprigs of grass that had forced their way through the hard Georgia clay were brown and stiff, as if they’d taken the easy way out and surrendered. I only have the first page, so I may be wrong in this. Unless one of the main characters I have yet to meet is one of these gas station employees, then this whole section does nothing to move me forward. It tells me nothing about the plot, it doesn’t build the character, and unless this spot is of integral importance – and the worldbuilding is very minimal and can easily be slotted in elsewhere.

She dropped the empty water bottle into a plastic bag to recycle later. Too bad she couldn’t recycle her courage until it was brand new, strong, repurposed. For me this feels repetitive. I would change this into something akin to:
The water bottle clacked into the recycling bin, its hope virtually shining out the top. Too bad courage wasn’t trash she could melt down and reuse.

With a heavy sigh, she picked up the phone, scrolled through her contacts and stopped when his name came up. Quinn Gallagher.

Did she want to do this? No, but her pesky conscience wouldn’t leave her alone. She needed to do the right thing, no matter the personal consequences. She chewed on her bottom lip and ran through all the excuses in her head, but her pesky conscience wouldn’t leave her alone. With a swipe of her thumb she scrolled through her contacts and stopped at his name. Quinn Gallagher. Before she could rethink it, she swiped the call icon.

His phone rang. Surely her caller ID would pop up on his screen. What would she do if he refused to answer? Bit of head hopping in there. She can’t hear his phone ring, it could be on vibrate, he could have it hooked to an alert through his phone. I’d opt for something like this instead:
The ring tone sounded in her ear. What would she do if he saw the caller ID and refused to answer?

“Gallagher.” His voice held no trace of warmth, no hint of a greeting.

In summary, this is how I’d suggest (and these are just suggestions for reworking in your own words of course) to truncate and refine the first page here:

~
The sprigs of grass that forced their way through the hard Georgia clay were brown and stiff, as if they too had taken the easy way out. Hadley Bishop set her phone on a table in front of the gas station convenience store. She peeled the banana and refused to consider the stop a stalling tactic.

The water bottle clacked into the recycling bin, its hope virtually shining out the top. Too bad courage wasn’t trash she could melt down and reuse.

She chewed on her bottom lip and ran through all the excuses in her head, but her pesky conscience wouldn’t leave her alone. With a swipe of her thumb she scrolled through her contacts and stopped at his name. Quinn Gallagher. Before she could rethink it, she swiped the call icon.

The ring tone sounded in her ear. What would she do if he saw the caller ID and refused to answer?

“Gallagher.” His voice held no trace of warmth, no hint of a greeting.

~

This gets us to the point a bit faster. Leaves us less preamble, while still giving us setting and a rising tension. Overall, with a few tweaks, I think this set up could work, but not knowing the rest of the chapter/book, I can’t quite say if it’s starting in the right place or not.

Good luck!

Thank you, Wendy and K.T., for your critiques. Interested in more first page critiques? Come back tomorrow for our next two critiques by Pitch Wars mentors, and while you’re here, check out our June posts for our mentors’ query critiques.  And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts August 2 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening August 17.

Want a critique or books from our Pitch Wars mentors, some awesome authors, agents, and editors? We’re putting together an auction and posting it this weekend to help one of our mentors save her home. To read more about this campaign, go here: http://www.gofundme.com/we4dv4m

 

Filed: Workshops

4 Comments
  • Ray says:

    I love the voice in the first excerpt, and I think Wendy made some great suggestions! The precise descriptions really paint a picture, and the unconventional relationship the mc seems to have with her dad is intriguing.

    In the second excerpt, I think I actually prefer the unedited version with the exception of the suggested first line, which I like. The description of the gas station, while not advancing the plot, did help set a bleak tone for the scene. I’ve never been to a dingy gas station with a recycling bin, and I thought it added to the character that she would go out of her way to recycle the bottle even though a bin wasn’t readily available. I also prefer the original recycling metaphor to the new, though I agree the three adjectives at the end feel a touch repetitive. Maybe just two? Repurposed and strong? This is a good example of subjectivity, I suspect.

  • Carol says:

    K.T., thank you for your time and the critique! I will take your suggestions under advisement when I polish this.

    • KT Hanna says:

      I hope it helps, Carol. Like I said in it, I don’t know enough to understand how important some elements may be. You have a lovely way with descriptive elements so I’m sure a round of polish will make already good prose – great! Let me know if you have any questions

  • BZ says:

    Wendy, thank you for the invaluable critique. You made very good points. Wonders why I couldn’t think of them. *slaps own forehead*

    Also thanks Ray for the nice words. I’m glad it looks interesting.

    And again thanks Brenda for organizing these workshops.

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