Welcome to June’s Setting Workshop! From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample chosen by the writers from a place he or she felt needed help with setting. We hope that not only you’ll learn a little bit about setting that you can apply to your own writing, but that you’ll also be able to get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors and their editing styles. 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 Dannie Morin
Dannie Morin is an addictions therapist with a writing problem. By day she alternates between counseling teens and wrangling a very sassy toddler. By night she writes, critiques, and edits like a boss. When she’s not doing any of those things, she’s a compulsive participant in the Carolinas Region of SCBWI and a regular Snarky Sue in online Pitch Contests. Dannie pens young adult and new adult fiction in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Andrea’s gaze traced a stack stone wall that crumbled down to nowhere as they passed. These are great details but I got a bit tripped up by the alliteration of stacked stone. I’m also not sure if ‘crumbled down to nowhere’ is happening actively in the scene. If so, you might consider making these two sentences. ‘Andrea’s gaze traced a stacked stone wall. It crumbled down to nowhere as they passed. More subjectively, I’m not crazy about ‘crumbled down to nowhere’. ‘Nowhere’ doesn’t help me picture this. She found something magical I can’t tell if this is literal or figurative. Did she literally find something magical? If so, being more specific would be good here. If you’re being more figurative, and that’s my guess here, you might use a different verb besides ‘found’. in the old ruins old ruins is a little redundant. You might consider a stronger adjective that gives us some sensory detail scattered everywhere another instance here where specificity would allow this to resonate more with the reader. It was Those Random pillars that once supported a temple to the Greek gods, and the pieces of rock with ancient carvings rubbed down from the years that first sparked her wonder for a time long ago. This is another sentence that reads a little clunky for me. I tried to clean it up, but that’s just a suggestion. If you haven’t you might consider having someone who hasn’t read your mss read this aloud and see where they get tripped up. That tells you where your sentences need to be reworked a bit.
Dad made a right turn, snapping Andrea back to the present as the car what kind? bumped along the dirt road leading up to Gram’s home. She let her head fall back against the seat, jostling with the movement as the tires worked over rocks and sandy divots. As wonderful as those memories were, this trip wasn’t planned. Three weeks ago, Gram had a heart attack. To be here, Andrea had to miss ‘Freshman Day’, a special orientation her college held. She had begged her parents to put off the visit. But now as the house on the hill came into view, the urge to hug Gram and know she was healthy gripped technically these are two urges. You might break this down a bit. Andrea.
Dad pulled the red Fiat ah there we go 🙂 You might consider telling us the type of car the first time you mention it, so we can rally picture what’s happening. A red Fiat is very different from a minivan and it’s a nice detail. It also gives us more a sense of the world you’re building here. into the driveway, kicking dust up into the olive trees. A comfort warmer than the ocean air wrapped around her as she gazed the white house with the blue door. Pale yellow shutters framed the windows on each side, a braid of garlic hanging in the left one the subject in this sentence is the shutters, so it sounds here like you’re saying the garlic is hanging in the shutters. Gram thought the garlic warded off evil spirits.
Smoothing her navy dress a dress is not the most comfortable thing to wear on an airplane so this gets my attention. I wonder if you might be more specific here. Is it a sundress? A maxi dress?, Andrea stepped out of the car. A gust of wind that tasted of salt and iron greeted her. This is a great detail. You give us a lot of visual data, but the other senses could be used to your advantage more. In the distance, the rhythmic song of the waves calmed her anxiety. It was a small house, however, it sat on a large piece of land. All around, Gram had planted gardens and designed various pathways leading to shaded nooks these details could be more specific. Andrea couldn’t understand how Mom didn’t get Gram’s love for sitting on the marble benches, surrounded by fuchsia bougainvilleas, lavender lilacs, and red poppies while she admired the turquoise water below. Much better 🙂
Gram’s nurse Delia welcomed Andrea with a hug and a kiss on each cheek, her thick arms swallowing up Andrea’s thin frame. When Mom passed by, Delia gave her a cold stare. As I’m picturing this bit of scene in my head, it’s not logical. If Delia is actively hugging Andrea, Andrea can’t see Delia’s eyes as Mom passes.
Then, the old woman’s entire eyeballs turned yellow, like the saffron gold of a cat’s. interesting Her round pupils seemed narrow to pointed ovals.
Andrea blinked. “Delia?”
Delia turned back to Andrea, her mouth curling into a kind smile, her eyes before you were talking about her eyeballs. This seems like her irises. Maybe rework this a little? now their regular coffee color. Andrea rubbed her own eyes. Jetlag sure did funny things to the brain.
The scent of olives and mint filled her nose as she entered the living room. The furniture was sparse, just a large bookcase along the right wall, two armchairs with bright blue cushions and an ivory couch with curved wood armrests. Andrea smiled thinking of all the hours she’d spent draped in one of the chairs as Gram’s melodic voice read her the stories of the Greek gods. She turned as Gram shuffled out from her bedroom door on the left.
Overall, I think there are some really nice details here. Some descriptions I can picture rather vividly. I do think, however, there is work to be done in cleaning this up the sentences themselves. For example, you might avoid multiple adjectives for one noun or use a more specific noun instead of an adjective-noun combo. You do this already in some instances and these were your stronger sentences for me. Tighten sentences however you can by killing any filler and filter phrases. Break down lengthy sentences into multiple bite-sized sentences so that the reader can digest each piece. For me, this is especially important in YA where the trend is to be more action/dialogue heavy, particularly early on in the manuscript. You give us a little bit of olfactory detail, but I wanted more descriptions that incorporated the other senses as well.
As always, this is just the opinion of one insufferably opinionated writer/editor. Keep what resonates and toss the rest. Good luck!
Thank you, Dannie, for your critique. Check back every weekday for the rest of our June Setting Workshop. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.