Welcome to the July 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.
A small-town girl at heart, Kelly moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in Northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—Gummy Bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.
Her debut novel, CHASING CRAZY, will be published in February 2016
Pininfarina Gabri’s rise to shame began the moment her father branded her with those five syllables. Fast forward to the Public Speaking Incident that defined her high school career, and she’s ready for a change. On a plane to New Zealand, she reinvents herself as Nina, non-disaster magnet. That lasts until she trips over a boot in the aisle—the one belonging to the hot guy she can’t stop picturing in a one-man Magic Mike show. But to flirt with him would mean conquering her androphobia—fear of men—acquired on the night she may or may not have lost her virginity. The jury’s still out after that disaster.
If one more person looks at Sam with those damn sympathy eyes, he’s gonna go postal. Hoping to rediscover the carefree guy he was before the crash that burned his legs and killed his mother, Sam escapes to New Zealand. A change of scenery and random hookups are the plan. But there’s this clumsy girl who looks at him with hungry eyes, making him feel like a legend. Not like a disfigured guy whose girlfriend dumped him.
When Nina and Sam find themselves traveling together, Sam makes it his mission to conquer her fears. All but her androphobia. With the way his father sank into depression following his mom’s death, no way is he getting in deep with a girl. Crazy chemistry or not. Plus, if she sees his scarred legs and rejects him, it could make the downward spiral he hit after the accident look like a kiddie ride.
Tiny. Beautiful. Safe.
Not the kind of place where women vanished into thin air.
The above reads more like a book blurb or query letter than it does the opening to a novel. For me, it’s too choppy. I think you’d draw your readers in more by constructing a sentence with more showing and less telling. Instead of telling me Confluence is safe, show me with a short description, like: ‘Confluence, Colorado used to be the type of place where kids could walk home from school unattended, the small community encased in majestic mountains, neighbors quick with a smile. Until women began vanishing into thin air.’ This probably doesn’t flow with your MS. I’m just trying to give you a feel for what I’m suggesting.
In the last two months a pair of teenagers, a stay-at-home mom and a waitress from the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon had all vanished without a trace. Four women with no connection between them as far as anyone could tell. Love this set-up. I’m intrigued from the start. I want to know more and keep reading. And the name of the saloon helps me imagine this small town. Awesome!
Jamie English straightened her white Stetson, took a deep breath and pushed open the glass doors leading to the sheriff’s office. As the new law in town, she had a big job to do. One a lot of people thought a young woman couldn’t handle.
Especially one who’d left town with her head hanging. Those last words ‘head hanging’ threw me off. I know what you’re going for, but it reads more that her head is literally hanging, and since the next line starts with lifting her chin, it adds to the awkwardness. I’d reword.
She lifted her chin. A lot had changed in five years. She’d grown up, matured. Motherhood at a young age did that to a girl. I love how you’re feeding your reader breadcrumbs here, bits and pieces about your MC, but I’d use this section to add even more instead of diving right into how she landed her job. You want your readers to feel invested in your MC as quickly as possible. Give us more. Instead of telling us she had to prove herself, show us why. If it was getting pregnant, make that clearer. Draw me into the emotion of that time for her. If it was something else, again, make me feel her pain or discomfort or awkwardness. Then I’ll understand why this job is huge. Daunting. Why she’s determined to make her mark. Her opportunity to prove herself had come along in an unexpected and horrible way. When she heard Big Jim English had been shot in the back of the head and left for dead in his driveway seven days ago, she xxxx*add emotion here. Was she close to the sheriff? If she wasn’t in town why did he appoint her? What is their relationship? You don’t have to reveal all, but I’d like to see more here. Before the doctors placed him in a drug-induced(hyphenate) coma, he’d appointed Jamie as acting sheriff.
Jamie promised him she would find out who shot him and solve the disappearances of the four women. She had to. Any other outcome was unacceptable. Again, if you establish more of a relationship in the previous part, this will have way more impact.
Hattie McDowell, an older woman with cropped gray hair, glanced up from her computer when Jamie stepped into the lobby. “Morning, Jam—Sheriff.” Love this small bit of dialogue. Quickly shows that she’s known in the town and that it will take time for people to accept her in her new role.
All in all, sounds like an intriguing MS! You’ve made it clear from the start that your readers will be delving into an exciting mystery. Great job.
Kim Long is an attorney in the Chicagoland area, where she spends her days expressing her clients’ (always true) stories to judges and juries. She writes MG and YA contemporary fantasy that contain a sprinkle of science and is represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger. When not managing her fantasy baseball and football teams, she can be found biking, watching Star Wars for the zillionth time, or teaching her nieces about the importance of choosing the correct racer (Toad) and vehicle (standard bike) to win Mario Kart.
Hi! I think this sounds great. The one overall thing I noticed is that you use a lot of descriptive clauses, which can come off clunky. Most of my suggested changes simply re-organize or re-word what you’ve written to make it flow better. I also deleted some unnecessary words/tightened a bit by removing words (like “away”) or replacing many words with one (like “returning” instead of “having to go back” or “gaped” instead of “stood gaping”).
But overall, I love the descriptive quality of your writing. I’m thinking this is MG? If so, the one thing to keep in mind is to keep the action going while also giving plenty of description. (And I will say that I write MG and tend to do all plot, little descriptive background, so I’m jealous of your way with words!)
Obviously, all of this is just my opinion, but I hope you find some of my suggestions useful. Good luck!
The dilapidated Galli Manor loomed over Agnes and made her feet shift away on the sidewalk. (Watch for unnecessary words, like away.) Inheriting the old structure a mansion (I think this is what you mean–she goes from—ooh, a mansion to oh, a hunk of junk) from her grandfather—a grandfather she hadn’t known existed—was supposed to be good fortune. But, she felt certain if she put one foot on the aged steps, her future would end with a decayed board through her chest. I think this reads a tad wordy. Maybe: “But from the looks it, a single step on the old structure would lead to a decayed board through the chest.”)
For the love of chocolate—RETREAT!
She stepped back with her mother, brother, and a non-related lanky lawyer and gazed at the ghastly stairs. The wrought iron spindles stretched to the railing and wrapped it like bony fingers—each holding a globe-shaped glass light. with smoky glass. (Reorganizing this to make it a little more compact/reduce the number of clauses.) Several globes had broken, littering the stairs with shards of glass—one more hazard to worry about while trying to enter. worried about slicing her hand if she tripped walking up the staircase. And if she made it up the stairs, the The leaning paint-chipped columns supposed to be holding up the roof taunted her to pass. Surely they’d collapse, crushing her to smithereens. stood three times her height and leaned as though the roof would collapse, taunting she’d be crushed if she got past the steps. Agnes glanced at her mother and wondered if the poor woman had gone blind. <– Not sure this last sentence goes here. So far we don’t get any sense the mother feels any differently than Agnes about the manor. I’d cut or re-word. A simple, “Agnes glanced at her mother” could transition to the next paragraph.
The widow Galli stood gaping gaped at the manor with fretful eyes. Her thin body, long black hair and pale skin mimicked a taller version of Agnes, or so it’d been said. She squared her shoulders and squeezed Agnes’ hand. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I promise.”
She Agnes (for clarification since the “she” in the previous paragraph refers to her mother.) hoped her mother was right. She because cringed at the thought of having to go going back to the shelter. (Again, just tightening here.) The old geezer who that had slept by her snorted like an elephant, keeping her up most nights. and kept her up many nights.
With changes, it’d read:
The dilapidated Galli Manor loomed over Agnes and made her feet shift on the sidewalk. Inheriting a mansion from her grandfather—a grandfather she hadn’t known existed—was supposed to be good fortune. But from the looks it, a single step on the old structure would lead to a decayed board through the chest.
For the love of chocolate—RETREAT!
She stepped back with her mother, brother, and a non-related lanky lawyer and gazed at the ghastly stairs. The wrought iron spindles stretched to the railing and wrapped it like bony fingers—each holding a globe-shaped glass light. Several globes had broken, littering the stairs with shards of glass—one more hazard to worry about while trying to enter. And if she made it up the stairs, the leaning paint-chipped columns supposed to be holding up the roof taunted her to pass. Surely they’d collapse, crushing her to smithereens.
Agnes glanced at her mother. The widow Galli gaped at the manor with fretful eyes. Her thin body, long black hair, and pale skin mimicked a taller version of Agnes, or so it’d been said. She squared her shoulders and squeezed Agnes’ hand. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I promise.”
Agnes hoped her mother was right. She cringed at the thought of returning to the shelter. The old geezer who had slept by her snorted like an elephant, keeping her up most nights.
Thank you, Kelly and Kim, 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.