Monday, December 30, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #41

Most Wonderful Author: Jinny Jones @ Tumblr
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A


“Why do you wear a hood all the time, even indoors?” she came right out with it and covered her nervous expression with a sip of her coffee.

“I’m a very private person. Why do you keep yourself so closed off from others?”

“I’m afraid of being abandoned and hurt. What are you hoping for out of this, you don’t strike me as the normal dating type, what’s really going on here?” she raised an eyebrow and he chuckled freely, carefully placing his cup back on the table.

“My, aren’t you perceptive? I’m not so sure you’re ready, though if you can tell that easily I suppose it won’t hurt. You are correct. I am not the typical man seeking courtship from you. I’m something else entirely, but the real question. Are you willing to find out what that something is?”

She could feel the heat even from the shadows of his hood, that darkness allured her. The shadows made his face invisible yet she swore she could see a lopsided grin at times in the darker shades of black. She could never be certain but in that moment, she felt heat from his hidden gaze and it was a heat solely for her.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!


The constant, monotone alarm was once welcomed by her mind, now it was nothing more than a warning of deep sorrow and regret. Reaching for the nightstand, she killed the insistent beeping and dropped flat on the bed once again.


Strong Points –
I like that we begin with action right away. This is definitely a big plus. The dream also generates lots of interesting questions that easily carry my interest past the alarm clock. Above all, I’m wondering if she realizes she’s dreaming, or if the person she’s having her dream date with is someone she has encountered before, or if that she knows he actually exists outside her dreams – all those questions. This is a good thing if there’s the necessary unpacking, of course! In terms of creating conflict right in the intro, this does a good job. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to store away while reading on.


Some Tips –
The first thing that quickly got me was the sentence flow. Many lines were jarring and inorganic to me. I suppose this would have something to do with punctuation, but I’m also leaning heavily upon transitioning from one thought to another.

Traditionally, a sentence introduces an idea, and when a new idea is introduced, the first sentence ends and the next sentence begins. Of course, personal style and voice slices and dices and beats the heck out of this rule. But the writers who do it well are writers who acknowledge why this rule is a rule.

Here’s an example of where it’s not working:

What are you hoping for out of this, you don’t strike me as the normal dating type, what’s really going on here?

Each of the above clauses can make three separate sentences because they’re three different ideas.

What are you hoping for out of this?
You don’t strike me as the normal dating type.
What’s going on here?

The first clause is really its own sentence to me. I feel the second and third clause aren’t properly joined by a conjunction, or some other transitional word or punctuation mark. Here’s an example of what I mean:

You don’t strike me as the normal dating type, so what’s really going on here?

Or:

You don’t strike me as the normal dating type—what’s really going on here?

It feels like the second and third clause are utilizing the comma as a semicolon, which would still, I think, technically be incorrect? Because the two ideas don’t feel related enough. But, of course, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m definitely not the all-seer of grammar and punctuation.

Anyway, let’s take another example:

I’m something else entirely, but the real question.

This sentence is very jarring. The transition felt very unnatural to me, and the ending felt like doing a seatbelt check on all the passengers. Total whiplash. With a sentence like this, I’d be expecting an em dash, or even a colon. Something that flows naturally into the next thought.

Technically, without the right punctuation, this sentence reads like he’s saying he’s something else entirely, except the real question. As in, he’s not the real question. This can easily be misinterpreted.

As a final example:

I’m not so sure you’re ready, though if you can tell that easily I suppose it won’t hurt.

This is an example of where I felt the sentence read clunky, and I had to read it slowly because of the phrasing. I also thought it read a bit informal compared to the previous sentence.

But, I still think this goes back to flow and punctuation. The way I ended up reading it in my head was more like this:

I’m not so sure you’re ready—though, if you can tell that easily, I suppose it won’t hurt.

My own punctuation placement is stylistic for myself as well, but what I mean to show is exactly how I had to read it in order to understand. The em dash is a long pause, a sign of transitioning from one idea to a similar idea. The commas are brief pauses, and in this case, a split infinitive. Not everyone likes split infinitives, but in dialogue and close POV, they’re perfectly believable if done well.

Nextly, I’d have to say that when my alarm jolts me awake from deep sleep, my reaction is usually a bit more exclamatory and a bit less reflective. When I wake up from sleep, I’m still trying to figure out what day it is and where I am and, heck, even who I am. So I felt the main character’s immediate reaction unrealistic.

(Also, as a side note, since “BEEP! BEEP!” sort of speaks for itself, there’s no need to reiterate “The constant, monotone alarm”.)

The final thing I’d suggest is unpacking. I didn’t get a good dose of description because of the action, which is fine in this case. But “deep sorrow and regret” is a good example of telling versus showing, and we’ve talked a lot about that in previous Word Smashes (I’d recommend checking out 25x3, since it goes into more detail, but I’d also suggest checking back through other Smashes as well).

Mostly what set me back was the style. I can see it trying to come through, and it’s almost there, it just needs some tweaking and fine-tuning. Some good practice will take care of that. Also, I almost forgot, but make sure to check out the proper formatting of dialogue!


Would I Keep Reading?
Not yet. Practice, practice, practice, and do lots of critical reading of your favorite books to see how authors write dialogue to make it look natural. Really study how they use their punctuation, as well as when, why, how, and etc. Then, get some of your writerly friends or well-read friends to read your stuff and see if things are flowing smoother.

Hope that helps! Good luck! ♥

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #40

Fortieth Author!: Carly P
Not the Fortieth Editor: Victoria
Working Title: N/A


Music and the bodies of fairies form a circle on the hill. The dancing begins with twin royals of the daoine sidhe, Dubhlainn and Aoife. Together, they stride to the center of the circle and begin to dance. As they turn, they drift apart, fingers brushing palms. They go to the guests and each selects a new partner.
Freya gasps to herself when the beautiful daoine princess pulls her into a swirling dance. Could she know that Freya, one of the ianann sidhe, wasn’t meant to be here? If she notices, she doesn’t seem to mind.
Dubhlainn searches the crowd for a partner. His gaze falls upon someone with dark hair that falls down his face and with cheekbones like cut glass. He can’t place a name to this boy, but he has the feeling he’s seen his before and he guesses he must work for the royal court. When Dubhlainn takes his hand, he notices his hands are rough and are laced with small burns. A baker, perhaps? Or was he related to the royal blacksmith? Dubhlainn focused on the dark eyes in front of him as every guest began to dance. He leaned toward the boy slightly, and whispers, “What is your name?”
“My name is Aedan. It’s good to meet you, Dubhlainn.” They both smiled.
The night was warm and they were caught in a whirlwind.


Strong Points --
Well I love me a good fairy story, let me tell you. I love seeing the whole fairy court and all of the impossible to pronounce Gaelic (at least for me) and I'm so excited for this. You've got some really nice description in here, the cheekbones like cut glass, and the mention of fingers brushing across palms as they separate. I like these little details you've snuck into the narrative, because they raise questions, especially the burns on Aedan's hands.

Some Tips --
That being said, I really wish more details have been injected here. I know we're at a ball, but I have no idea what a fairy ball might look like, and I have no hints or clues to go by. Are there decorations? Do they wear big dresses? Do they wear nothing at all? I don't know any of this. Everything has largely been left up to my own imagination, and it's left me with blank, white surroundings. As with the royals (twins?). I don't know what they look like. I don't need paragraphs and paragraphs, but this is a whole new world for me, and without that sensory description, I have nothing to translate how magical this realm is supposed to be.

Also, there is a lot of telling, a lot of unloading exposition where we do not need it. A perfect example is Freya, who we've been outright told she should not be there because of what she is. For me, this could have been communicated so much stronger through body language, through Freya's body chemistry and her fear, and then later revealed when it's necessary to know. It certainly raises its own questions, but telling us instead of showing she shouldn't be there kills the potential for a great look into her character.

For example, are Freya's palm's sweating? Is she watching the rest of the crowd over Aoife's shoulder to see if anyone notices her for what she is? Or is she so captivated by the princess that she forgets to be paranoid? Does she trip? Is it effortless to fall into step with Aoife? I would have known so much more about both of them and their situation with some more detail, and I would have become more attached to the characters themselves. Telling bypasses all of this, and just presents me with a fact that's a little colder.

Would I keep reading?
Not yet. Unfortunately, I really feel you have to slow down and take the time to weave more details into your narrative. It's a tough thing to do, to balance sensory details, characters, and the plot all at once. Our suggestion is always that you read. Read, read, read! Read your favorite authors and  figure out how it is that they paint a picture, let you know the character, and still keep you dying to know what happens next. And then we'd be so happy if you resubmitted! Thank you so much and good luck!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #25x3

Most Wonderful Author: Kaitlyn Noble
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: The Underground Prince
History: Previous Submission || First Submission


Previous Submission:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. I can hear in his voice that he’s scared but trying to hide it, so I hide my own fear and stand a little straighter. Right after I agree, father runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. I obey my father’s orders and run towards my room, excitement in my veins that there’s actual fighting going on, but also fear. Fear of what might happen. Knights and guards are blurred shadows as they hurry past me. Servants and other castle workers scatter in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper beforehand. One slams against the old tapestry in the dining hall, and it moves uneasily. As I run past, a few servants tell me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy or my father, because I’m “too young to be so close to the fighting.”

As I round another corner, boots sliding on the slick rock, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!” “They’re gaining ground fast, they’ve already breached the inner walls!” There’s one bit though that makes my heart stop.


Revision:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. The words are spoken anxiously, his voice low and firm. I nod once and force my shaky legs to stand straighter and be still. Right after this, father runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. I let my posture slouch in defeat and run towards my room, annoyed that there is actual fighting going on that I must miss. It’s hard to keep my hands from punching the nearest wall as the blurry, fleeting shadows of the castle guards hurry past. The further I go, the more servants and other castle workers I see scattering in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper beforehand. One stumbles and slams against the old tapestry in the dining hall, and it moves uneasily. A few glare at me, shouting for me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy or my father, because I’m “too young to be so close to the fighting.” 
As I round another corner, my boots sliding on the slick rock, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!”


Strong Points:
As you might have noticed, I’ll be taking over this revision on Victoria’s behalf to help give more perspective in this revision. I volunteered myself right before she volunteered me, so I’m happy to put in my thoughts!

I can see how you’ve applied some of what Victoria’s said, and that’s awesome. There are some new details, and also “showing” of his frustration through the line, “It’s hard to keep my hands from punching the nearest wall,” which is a solid sign of characterization that we didn’t have before. The additions definitely help.


Some Tips:
However, while the additions help, revisions are still quite timid and minute. I understand what Victoria’s been trying to explain about this intro, and while there are certainly some improvements, her points still stand: the intro reads like a summary of events. It feels like the main character is recounting over dinner to someone a moment that happened. I’m not fully immersed in the story because the action is described in a retrospective way.

Let’s take the very first line.

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

This is a summary. In fact, this could be the first line of a synopsis (which is usually in third person, not first, although it’s not unheard of). I can picture reading the summary on the back of the book and this being the first line. That’s cool, but it’s not as effective in the actual story.

This is what Victoria means by telling. That first line is the core example of “telling” versus “showing”, and while there are certainly times where “telling” is absolutely appropriate (and some might argue that this might actually work here), both Victoria and I agree that this opening line loses the potential drama of the intro.

What Victoria has been trying to explain is to utilize action for greater impact. Let’s take the very first line here:

One moment I am laughing with my father.

This can be unpacked with action. What are they talking about? Where are they? What’s the relationship between them? What’s their connection? What do they look like? All of these potential questions are lost because, instead of beginning with action, the action is summarized.

The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

‘War zone’ means nothing to the reader. Was there an explosion? Are there fires? Did someone run in and announce a siege on the castle? What are the stakes? What is the conflict?

Also, ‘The next thing I know’ or other modern idiosyncrasies are actually kind of like ‘throwaway lines’, or clich├ęd phrases that don’t really carry their weight.

Let me try to give a real concrete example of what I mean. Keep in mind that this is just my own personal exploration of the story and not intended to be used for anything other than just a basic example. Let’s take the third line:

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe.

And to demonstrate “unpacking”, “showing” and “action”, I’ll write it like this:

He grabs me by the shoulders, his leather hands too stiff. “Son, go to your chamber.” I hardly recognize his voice, both stern and firm, yet each word quivered on the tip of his tongue. “Lock the doors. Stay quiet. Stay hidden. Do not come out until I’ve sent word it’s safe.”

My own voice cracks in my throat. “Father—”

A resounding boom rocks the castle and challenges my balance. Father recovers first and shoves me away. “Go.”

Again, this is just an example of something that could have been explored from that single line, where the narrative can take the reader into “the moment” of the story instead of glaze over it. I want to see how dad’s anxious, not just have it told to me. Moments like these are what really bring home the contrast and stakes of the story.

For me, the entire first line can be unpacked to fill the first 250 words. I can see it. There’s a lot that we lose as readers when it’s all crammed together into a single line of telling. Personally, I would definitely suggest a whole rewrite, because I think you can do much better than this. Brave restarting fresh and think about what matters as you write—what should be conveyed, and how.

But before you brave another revision, I’d definitely advise you to check out our masterpost of exercises. Some of the exercises also have examples, and I’d recommend checking into those as well (especially on the pacing side, because I think that’ll help you a lot).

Also, I’d recommend picking up a book in your genre (middle grade or young adult fantasy, I’d guess) and read critically like a writer. Take notes, mark passages with stickies or post-its, and really learn how the author’s craft functions in scenes like yours. Study how the author keeps the reader rooted in the story and avoids summarizing events (or, conversely, uses summaries of events to benefit the story, because not all “telling” is bad).


Would I Keep Reading?
I want to see some big changes if you decide to do another revision – I’d also be super excited if you did. I love to see huge improvement, and once you let go and really get into revising, I think you’ll do something awesome!

Good luck! ♥

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nano Day #6

So, I see lots of you all climbing into the five-digit word counts, or getting close, which is totally awesome. But, if you're not, don't despair. All is not lost. Only day six of November is concluding. Not even the first week is over yet. If you've fallen behind, you can still catch up.

Firstly, make sure you've read 13 quick tips when you’re starting your novel at the Tumblog. Next, try some of these things:

  • Try word sprints. Nano has an official Twitter for word sprints. Also, heck out TheWritersHelpers' Nano blog, because they hold word wars.
  • Set smaller goals. If you're only making 200 words a day, try aiming for fifty words every half hour. Then take a half-hour break. Then come back. Sometimes the "end of the day" deadline gives us too much room to stretch out our legs. Setting several more smaller deadlines might help.
  • Make sure you're not stuck. Sometimes writing becomes difficult when we haven't planned for what's coming. Simply planning out the next few steps often helps this problem.
  • Do something active right before writing. Take a walk or a jog around the block, down the street, or get up and dance to What Does the Fox Say. Your brain activity increases, which is good for thinking.
  • Write with a friend. Sometimes all we need for a morale boost is simply to have someone hold us accountable. Every half hour of writing, bug each other, whether through some sort of messaging or in person.

November still has many long days left, so don't panic!

How is everyone doing?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nano Day #1

OKAY. So, it's the end of the first day. (I mean, it's not for us west coast folk, still got some time to go.) But, the day's concluding for our friends on the east coast. So, here are some troubles I've got glimpses of on the Tumblrsphere --

  1. Help! Help! I'm barely into my story and it's horrendous! It feels horrendous because it's been a struggle, but the worst thing you can do at this point is to stop and go back to read. Keep going forward, don't look back, and don't rewrite!
  2. I wrote way too much of [insert thing] into the beginning, what should I do? Nothing. Keep going forward, don't look back, and don't rewrite!
  3. The day is practically over and I've barely written anything/nothing at all! Calm down. It's okay. Don't panic. The first few days are going to take some adjusting to, like stepping into cold water. At first, it stings, and it might be disorienting, but it doesn't mean you won't adjust. Let yourself adjust first.
  4. I don't really know where my story's going, but it's not what I thought. The first draft is the first draft for a reason -- you're just starting to get to know your story. Some people have a pretty good idea of what they're going to write when they begin, some people write themselves into knowing what they're going to write. Some people even finish and go, "What the heck did I just write?" All of these forms of writing are totally legitimate.
 So, tell me, how did the first day go? What's your word count so far? Had any trouble? Tell me the thing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #39

Most Wonderful Author: Cactuar
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A


They always sat, him and Halil, perched atop the towering walls in the evenings, sharing what food they could scrape together and looking out towards their doom, the black silhouettes which swarmed over the hills surrounding their city, once home to some of the best vineyards in the whole of the world-- now a scarred and barren expanse marked by the charred remains of an arbor here or there, sticking out of the ashes like the blackened bones of some long-dead beast.

He didn't know why they did it. It wasn't as if seeing them out there helped anything. There was no help for any of it. Nothing to do but sit and talk and eat what they could find, and watch Halil's eyes grow colder and darker and harder with every day that passed.

By now, the stores had gotten so low and nerves frayed so raw by the fear of what was coming that violence was breaking out among the citizens. The day before, the guards had violently repelled a group of panicked townsfolk trying to throw open the gates. Surrender, and hope for mercy…though, they had to know that it was far too late for that. Surrender, then, and at least get it all over with a little faster.

As it turned out, they didn’t have much longer to wait. Five days later the gate fell, and Halil turned to Kadri and suggested that they jump.

"Jump?" he'd squeaked in reply, leaning out over the edge [...]


Strong Points –
What I liked about this was the subtlety in the writing. It’s definitely far from purple prose, but in that aspect, I like it. The simplicity makes description like “sticking out of the ashes like the blackened bones of some long-dead beast” stand out like a frame around a portrait, so I like it. (And I absolutely love that metaphor, like wow, so perfect for the atmosphere and mood.)

The first paragraph is definitely my favorite, because not only does it build up the surroundings, but it builds up the setting. It effortlessly begs the question “what happened here?” without ever prompting the words. That’s definitely a skill that takes practice to evolve.


Some Tips –
While I love the first paragraph, the following paragraphs fell into the trap of exposition and info-dumping, all “telling”. The first paragraph does a good job of setting up the scene, but then we lose it when we enter all the background telling.

While this information might be critical for the reader to know, it delays the start of the actual story, the reason why readers picked up the book, and there are other ways to unpack it other than taking up so much of the crucial opening paragraphs. A good way to unload all this necessary background information is to unload ideas with and between dialogue. Check out the example I have in that old post, and also the super old post linked above. These’ll help create some strategies on how to tackle adding backstory in as it becomes necessary.

Of course, there are times where telling is absolutely necessary and okay. (There’s a post somewhere about this that I saw recently, but for the life of me, I can’t find it.) A good balance of showing versus telling and telling versus showing keeps the dynamic of the world and character intentions clear and distinct and focused. The art of showing alone simply can’t reveal all that necessary information, but in the beginning, setting up the story is critical. Finding this balance will take practice (I can definitely attest to that, because it’s one that I’m still far from mastering).

Secondly, be aware of word choice. “Doom” for me is a word that says very little in the context of a narrative because it’s something that’s relative. The definition of it changes from person to person. Also, there’s the connotation of the word that hits the scale of “epic” for me, a word so overused because of its dramatic flair that I can’t see it used in fiction anymore – not in a serious manner, anyway. In modern dialogue, sure. Or even in the narrative from the POV of a modern voice.

Other than that, I’d say be conscious of grammar such as “he and Halil” versus “him and Halil”. Another bit is that the first paragraph is all one sentence. That’s 82 words in one sentence with five commas and one dash. That sentence can definitely be broken up, and it might improve how the opening flows.

Also, as a final note, check out 250 Words Smash #37 for some tidbits on dialogue tags.


Would I Keep Reading?
Not yet. Half the intro was exposition, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get into the story. I’d like to see a revision, though, and then I’d get a better sample of the writing, too. Since the exposition was mostly summary, it’s difficult to get a better feel for prose. I’m sure I’d have more feedback then!

Good luck!

♥♡❥

Sunday, October 20, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #38

Very Spooky Author: Alexander Paine @ Tumblr
Not so Spooky Editor: Victoria
Working Title: N/A

“Fuck! Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
As Travis crashed to the floor the tray he carried clattered on the ground. Glass shattered and flew in every direction away from him, while golden champagne pooled on the redwood deck. He winced as he picked himself up. His right knee, the first part of him to hit the ground, throbbed painfully. Travis looked down his pants leg and, seeing a scuff mark on the tuxedo leggings, became certain that he scraped himself in the fall. All around him the festivities on deck came to a halt, and every eye lay on him.
“Sorry, sir.” He stammered as the man he bumped into, through no fault of his own, turned to face him. The partygoer was dressed similarly to Travis, though, instead of a black tuxedo, his was all white and made of finer material that sheened in the soft, sensual light. Some of the champagne had collected on the surface of his shoes and splashed the hem of his pants. “Shit! I’m so sorry. This is my first time out here and I’m not entirely used to navigating out here yet.”
“How difficult can it be to just walk around someone?” The man sneered. “Idiot! Get back to your job and clean this glass up before someone cuts themselves.” He turned back to the card table and those around him followed suit. A moment later things on deck returned to normal, the incident forgotten.


Strong Points -
You have some good descriptors in here! And they're very good clues for telling us what kind of party Travis is at, and that he's not exactly an invited guest. But you never outright tell us that. That's awesome. You've trusted your readers to figure out the clues for themselves. You used dialogue for that purpose as well. The fact that Travis is so willing to use curse words when he is in a work environment, that also says a lot about Travis. He's definitely not at home in this atmosphere, and it shows in these little ways.


Some Tips -
As I said before, I really love the description that you've put into the beginning, because it gives us so much information. Now let's fine-tune it.

Some of this is awkwardly worded and unnecessarily long. For instance, describing the other man's white tuxedo. We don't need to know that he's wearing a tuxedo like Travis because we've already been told what Travis has on, and that was described only a few sentences ago. We haven't forgotten just yet. You can just get straight to the part where the sensual (I really liked this word) light shines a certain way on the fabric. Another word you've repeated is "redwood". Instead of reusing words, take this opportunity to give us a new word that adds another dimension to the surroundings.

Even the collision and the fall could have been a bit clearer. I didn't really understand that Travis had fallen until I kept reading. You wait until a few sentences later to tell me that he landed on his knee, when I think that should have been mentioned upon impact. That would hurt. That's not exactly a detail to be exposed in the aftermath, but the sort of thing that should be known when it happens. It brings us a little closer to Travis, because we all know what it's like fall on our knees and how much it hurts.

Also, I am personally not a fan of dialogue tags such as "stammered". I believe you can communicate this much better through the dialogue and actions, and you have. The fact that he calls the other man "sir" shows the hierarchy, and I think you can better show how nervous Travis is through actions or otherwise. Sarah gave an excellent example of this in the last Word Smash, which you can read here.

Over all, this lacks a certain voice. I think you still need to play with your style of writing, because this doesn't feel like it belongs to you. I want your voice, I want your way of writing, and this reads like your style is still in its infant stages. That's okay! We all start with little babies, and the best way to nurse them is to read. Read popular writers like J. K. Rowling and Stephen King and Neil Gaiman and see what it is about their voices that makes them sound like themselves. As writers, we take what we like from others and we mold it to fit ourselves. I even learned from reading fanfiction and RPing.


Would I keep reading?
Not yet. I just don't feel like I have enough about Travis to tie me to him, or have enough of his situation just yet.  I feel that this is purely setup for where the story really begins, and that I'm not really hooked anymore. So if you revise after taking a look at this, please resubmit! I'd love to see how you nurture your own style, and I can't wait! Thank you so much! <3 <3 <3


Finishing Your To-Do List?

So, I got to read about your projects last week, which was super awesome. (Also, if haven't yet and you're still considering talking about your project, feel free to comment on last week's post anytime!) I saw some interesting fantasy-dystopian crossovers -- two of my favorite genres -- and lots of adventure and action and good stuff. I'm excited to see you all get some serious word counts down.

After today, there's only ten days left until November 1st. That's still plenty of time if you're still scrambling, but what do you have left to do? Are you still throwing plot points together? Researching? Gathering up all your favorite music for the best writing mood soundtracks? Doodling up characters?

I still have a bit to do, but I've made a whole lot of progress since last week. Here's my to-do list:

  • Finish revisiting book 1 and finalizing all the things that need to be finalized there. (Hopefully I can get this done today.)
  • Write the synop for book 3.
  • Finish up the rest of the remaining 250 Words Smash intro critiques.
  • Finish all the remaining asks in the ask box.
  • Finish -- or at least get very close to -- the self-pub post series.
  • Get the marketing things that I need to do accomplished.
  • Revisit the outline draft and kick it in the face.

Whew, I think that's it. It actually helps to get all this out where I can see it. Organization? What's that??? But I'd definitely recommend making a list and prioritizing the bigger chores! It creates that feel-good moment when you get to cross things out like, "Oh yeah, I'm so awesome, I just accomplished something."

So what's left on your list?

Monday, October 14, 2013

So Maybe We Will Do Nano


Yesterday on the Tumblog, I asked everyone if they would be participating in Nanowrimo next month. Usually on KSW, the Nano months have been perfect times to get to know the writers who follow KSW, and it's also when I get to learn about everyone's projects. Even when followers change their names and icons, I can still be like, "Oh, you write THIS!"

Also, it's a time when I get to write alongside everyone else, which, for me, is when the whole writing help blog thing doesn't matter and we're all just writers together. The last Camp Nano I unofficially participated in helped me write over 90k of book three back in April, and I haven't plotted and written a full book since completing book three.

I mean, it's not for lack of wanting to write. In fact, I'm lusting so hard for writing book four that I'm ready to climb out of my skin.

But, ever since finishing book three, I've spent the past months revising, making covers, and marketing. All the self-pub stuff.

I will have to finish revising the novella this month (I should be working on that currently and am not, ehehehe), possibly another read-through of book one, and then the (hopefully) final revision of book three, which must be finished before December.

The lattermost can't happen until my betas finish reading, which is likely to happen in November. This means I'm totally going to have to both write and revise. My brain is unruly and difficult to divide between commitments, oh yes it is. I commend those who can, but alas.

I just ate dinner and I'm even hungrier than I was before eating. What's up with that?

Anyway, Nano is an awesome time for getting to know followers, but the blog has grown exponentially since even the most recent Camp Nano, and I can definitely see that in the comments. There's no way I can spend all the time I normally do copying+formatting everyone's progress responses to new posts. I had trouble last time -- I'd make it a full-time job if I did it now.

So, in short, I'll make posts here and encourage everyone to make comments here. Then I can reply, and keep replying, and I don't have to worry about losing track of things.

This'll be a test run and we'll see how it goes from here! (Maybe I can even elbow Victoria into making some posts or something. We'll see.)

So, KSW does Nano on the blog test phase 1. We'll see how it goes!

Let's start off things here. To begin, what's your project about?

First 250 Words Smash! #37

Most Wonderful Author: Ibi @ Tumblr
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: Icarus: The Rise and Fall of Grey Warren, (self-proclaimed) Rock God


Tracey wasn't in her dorm room, and according to her roommate she hadn't been there all day. Of course, Marlena was kind of a colossal bitch who gave Grey the stink eye every time he came over and made a big production about going to bed at, like, nine thirty if he had the audacity to still be in the room, so Grey wasn't quite willing to just take her word on it.

Tracey liked to joke about fucking on Marlena's bed whenever she wasn't there, which honestly wasn't often. At least, Grey hoped it was a joke. He knew he wasn't fucking anyone on Marlena's bed (that was just… creepy. And unsanitary, probably), but he supposed it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that she was bringing some other guy back to the dorm for the sole purpose of defiling her roommates sheets whenever she and Grey were on one of their “off” periods. But they weren't off just then, not that Grey knew about, so there really shouldn't be any reason for that pinched and unpleasant look on Marlena's face.

“Do you know when she’ll be back, then?” he asked.

He felt it wasn't a completely unreasonable question—this was his actual girlfriend he was talking about, after all, not some random person he was ineptly trying to stalk—and he didn't think that Epic Eye-Roll was at all warranted.

“I don’t fucking know, ok?” she said, speaking as slowly and condescendingly as possible.


Strong Points –
Right away I’m thinking this is a NA (New Adult) contemporary romance, and I can definitely see this kind of thing with a rocking cover. The character voice comes forward in an in-your-face way, which I love. I can already tell he’s the kind of guy I’d want to drop-kick in the face and I’m geared for some serious character development already. And even from the two strings of dialogue, awesome. Perfectly natural, and I can just hear their voices in my head as if I’d already spent time with them and got to know them.


Some Tips –
The craft is still pretty raw, but the talent is definitely there. Fine-tuning the writing will bring the story up a hundred levels, and they’re some pretty easy fixes.

Let’s start with the first thing: the opening. The first two paragraphs are 100% backstory, AKA exposition. This exposition delays the start of the action – the actual story begins at the very end of the second paragraph, with Marlena’s expression. That backstory might be necessary to properly set up the scene, but it’s more effective to drop the necessary bits intermittently between dialogue and actions – as the story requires it. Let the narrative generate the question, then give answers as necessary, instead of giving all the answers up front and then asking all the questions. Let the readers ask the questions (“Why is Marlena making that face?”) and then provide the answers.

Secondly: divide up the long sentences. While they’re definitely part of Grey’s voice and a bit of a stylistic device, the series of long sentences that try to cram as much information as possible into one line can be disorienting. Let’s take this example:

He knew he wasn't fucking anyone on Marlena's bed (that was just… creepy. And unsanitary, probably), but he supposed it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that she was bringing some other guy back to the dorm for the sole purpose of defiling her roommates sheets whenever she and Grey were on one of their “off” periods.

That’s all, technically, one sentence. If I were an editor (a big “IF”, since grammar and punctuation law is way too dizzying for me to care too much about), I might chop it up to look like this:

He knew he wasn't fucking anyone on Marlena's bed. (That was just…creepy. And unsanitary, probably.) But he supposed it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that, whenever she and Grey were on one of their “off” periods, she was bringing some other guy back to the dorm for the sole purpose of defiling her roommate’s sheets.

What did I do? Made the first part its own sentence, as well as the parentheses, and then the last part. Also, since I was grappling with what Grey and Tracey’s relationship were, the third part threw me off as I was reading until I got to the very end. To prevent that confusion, I moved the piece closer to the beginning of the sentence.

(Oh, and I also added an apostrophe to “roommates” to mark possession.)

Finally, dialogue tags/indicators/direction. I believe more in dialogue “lead-in” than dialogue tags, but let me explain using an example:

“I don’t fucking know, ok?” she said, speaking as slowly and condescendingly as possible.

As a reader, and even as a slow reader (admittedly, since most of my friends finished the last Harry Potter in a matter of a few days and it took me about a week or so), I tend to gloss over dialogue tags. The thing is, by the time I’ve read the dialogue, I’ve already characterized the voice and the way the words were spoken, so to have the dialogue tags afterward to tell me I read the dialogue incorrectly is jarring.

“Said” and “ask” are good, simple things that serve their purpose of disappearing. They’re there only to mark who’s spoken. However, “speaking as slowly and condescendingly as possible” is the stage direction that’s jarring. This doesn’t mean it has to be crossed out, of course. But, for me, it reads a whole lot better if I have the stage direction before the dialogue. It could read something like this:

She spoke as slowly and condescendingly as possible. “I don’t fucking know, ok?”

A dialogue tag isn’t even needed then because the lead-in suffices as an indicator for who’s speaking, and how.

Ultimately the use of dialogue tags is a stylistic thing, but I think writing is so much stronger when they’re limited or arranged more advantageously. Any writing that draws attention to itself can instantly jolt readers from the story. This is a way of preventing that.

Other than that, make sure to keep in the correct tense (“… so there really shouldn't be any reason …” as opposed to “… so there really shouldn’t have been any reason …”) and to consider bits and pieces of description. I don’t know what anyone or anything looks like (although the opening exposition stole much of the opportunity for description), or any of the other senses.

Oh – and I also substituted your slightly changed title for the one you emailed, since I know you participated in the KSW First Impressions title series. Honestly, I think dropping "Icarus" makes the title stronger and less "telling". (Maybe even taking out "and fall"?) You don't want to give away the whole story with the title!


Would I Keep Reading?

Not yet. The writing needs to be stronger first, but I can definitely already sense a market for this – which is a hugely good thing. When lit agents read requested work, they not only read to enjoy, but also read to see how sellable the manuscript is. This has a market, I can already tell, and once the writing is stronger, I can see this getting high request rates (or even doing well on the Indie and self-pub platform, since NA is a big seller there, too).

Good luck!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #36

Most Wonderful Author: Phoebe
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A


Don’t panic.

This is what I will tell you when at last we meet.

The scene blossoms in my awareness; you are on the ground. Around you, life happens too fast. Leaving you behind. Bright lights add their punctuation to the rainswept darkness as they flare and fade. The street lights shed their sodium glow in mourning. Incandescent tears.

I watch, gaze following the panicked motion of the people fluttering about you. Their intentions burst from their chests like doves, trailing shards of light. They drift, pulled out behind their splintered streams of sound and colour. They are out of focus. Irrelevant. You, on the other hand, are the fixed point. For this iteration of present, you are the purpose of my existence.

Your heartbeats are fitful. Slowing. A small bird dashing itself against its cage. I wait.

You are cracked. Flawed. Fundamentally. You spin along a catastrophe curve in a state of cheery oblivion, and when it ends – an inevitability, and a bloody one – I am there to discreetly sweep away the pieces. Gently collect you together.

We shall say, for now, that I provide a service.

You are beginning to fail. Layers of neurons closing connections. Shutting down operations. Your lungs are no longer functioning, saturated with blood. Anoxic cell death is imminent.

I move a little closer. You sense my presence, I think; some people do. A side effect of the chemicals flooding your system, the biological equivalent of clamouring alarms and fail-safes.


Strong Points –
I mean, wow??? As in, wow, wow, wow. The second person POV made me wary at first, as second person tends to do, but as soon as I let myself delve in, I was almost wholly enraptured by it. Some of the lines were just so absolutely perfect, like the streetlights with the sodium glow in mourning, and I was like, wow. I couldn’t even say why, but that was my favorite line. I think it might have been that I was also paired with a flavor, the saltiness, which evoked another dimension of the description that just hit the right place for me.

I also love the flow. The variation of sentences. My second favorite sentence is one of the shortest: “I wait”. Holy herd of cattle. It was in the right place with the right combination of elements, and ending that sentence with “I wait” is just the perfect punctuation to the paragraph – and I’m geeking out. Okay.

My third favorite thing is the narrator. Specifically, how hints are dropped, how it’s implied in little doses what the narrator is, and it connected with me just in time in the last paragraph, “You sense my presence, I think; some people do,” and I back-flipped. There are plenty of hints throughout, but it all connected for me with this line.

 
Some Tips –
Every bit of advice I can give here is only my purest of opinions, which is 100% subjective to my own personal tastes. I’m sure other readers might find the prose perfect as is, but as a fan of restraint, I have some thoughts.

By “restraint”, what I mean is holding back in order to let certain elements shine. Composition in art does this. Clouds and trees and mountains are beautiful, but crammed together and fighting for the same spotlight creates a very busy, distracting image.

The same can apply to writing as well. So many elements competed for the spotlight in this intro that, as much as I liked bits of it, reading was admittedly very slow and cautious, like tip-toeing.

Let’s take this paragraph:

I watch, gaze following the panicked motion of the people fluttering about you. Their intentions burst from their chests like doves, trailing shards of light. They drift, pulled out behind their splintered streams of sound and colour. They are out of focus. Irrelevant. You, on the other hand, are the fixed point. For this iteration of present, you are the purpose of my existence.

If I were to revise it, these are the lines I would consider eliminating or paring down:

I watch, gaze following the panicked motion of the people fluttering about you. Their intentions burst from their chests like doves, trailing shards of light. They drift, pulled out behind their splintered streams of sound and colour. They are out of focus. Irrelevant. You, on the other hand, are the fixed point. For this iteration of present, you are the purpose of my existence.

Let me describe the reasons why:

  1. This line is so abstract that I’m not sure whether to see it literally or metaphorically, specifically since this is the intro and I’m trying to find some grounding for the setting, to visualize where this is taking place.
  2. The description contradicts the proceeding line: “They are out of focus. Irrelevant.” So much emphasis is brought upon the people, but then discounted right after, that I wonder why so much attention is drawn to people that are blurred.
  3. This bit: “Your heartbeats are fitful. Slowing. A small bird dashing itself against its cage.” This part borrows a bird comparison as well, and I would choose this in favour of the former because it’s stronger, and I know it’s not a bird in the literal or semi-literal sense. By now, I’m a little more grounded, and it’s enough that I can gather this is not to be taken literally.

My recommendation would be to reduce the description of the crowd into something that sends them to the back instead of draws the spotlight onto them. The spotlight is on the narrator and the subject of the second person POV. Everything else is less important and, when it competes for the spotlight, takes away from the narrator and the subject.

Another paragraph that was a bit jarring was this one:

You are cracked. Flawed. Fundamentally. You spin along a catastrophe curve in a state of cheery oblivion, and when it ends – an inevitability, and a bloody one – I am there to discreetly sweep away the pieces. Gently collect you together.

The jarring part is more or less this particular part:

You spin along a catastrophe curve in a state of cheery oblivion, and when it ends – an inevitability, and a bloody one

This sentence rips me out of the delicate grip I have on the present given to me from the narrative, and I was confused because I very much pictured the subject literally suddenly spinning. I had to pause and reread the entire paragraph to understand that the intent was to send me backwards in time to get some perspective on what was happening presently, but I had a bit of whiplash from it.

My favorite parts were the ones that I didn’t have to reread or tip-toe through. After that aforementioned paragraph, it was perfectly smooth sailing until the end and I enjoyed it very much.

Like, very much.

This is the type of writing that I would reread just for the beauty of it, and just for the fact that most of it seems so effortless that I seethe with envy. I do, however, need to get through my first read-through with as few hiccups as possible.


Would I Keep Reading?
A little more, at least, to see if there are any further hiccups in the writing. If the language sets me back too often, I’m more likely to put down a book and never pick it up again. I am, however, definitely interested in the story proposed. I’m also curious as to how the second person POV would proceed.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #25x2

Intrepid Author: Kaitlyn Noble
Highly Caffeinated and Ready Editor: Victoria
Working Title: The Underground Prince
History: First Submission

Original Post:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. Right after he says that, he runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. Reluctantly, I obey my father’s orders and run towards my room. Knights and guards run past me towards the battle. Servants and other castle workers scatter in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper before this happened. A few tell me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy, or my father.

As I round a corner, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!” “They’re gaining ground fast, they’ve already breeched the inner walls!” The one that gets me the most is, “We’re losing men faster than we can replenish them!” When I hear this, I stop running. I pause long enough to figure out what the most direct route to the armory is without being detected by my father. After a moment, I decide to take one of my many shortcuts. No one else knows about it but me, so I know I can get there undetected. I am only 13, but I am a good swordsman, and my father needs me.

 Revision:

One moment I am laughing with my father. The next thing I know, the castle I call home is a war zone.

Father tells me to go into my room and lock the door until he says it is safe. I can hear in his voice that he’s scared but trying to hide it, so I hide my own fear and stand a little straighter. Right after I agree, father runs down the hall with my uncle towards the armory. I obey my father’s orders and run towards my room, excitement in my veins that there’s actual fighting going on, but also fear. Fear of what might happen. Knights and guards are blurred shadows as they hurry past me. Servants and other castle workers scatter in all directions. Some carry bed sheets or baskets of food, since they were trying to prepare supper beforehand. One slams against the old tapestry in the dining hall, and it moves uneasily. As I run past, a few servants tell me to get to my quarters before I am killed, either by the enemy or my father, because I’m “too young to be so close to the fighting.”
As I round another corner, boots sliding on the slick rock, I hear bits and pieces of news about the battle. “The Galbactians have attacked!” “They’ve come back with a vengeance this time ‘round!” “They’re gaining ground fast, they’ve already breached the inner walls!” There’s one bit though that makes my heart stop.


Strong Points -
You already know a lot of these, so this will be a bit more brief this time. I still like that we are put right into the action, and I noticed that you took my advice and added some more small details about the castle here and there. Awesome! You did pretty good with that. Instead of dumping a lot of visuals on me and slowing down your pace, you injected them here and there, and that helped.


Some Tips -
So, my previous critiques were that you needed to plump this piece up, and I still have that feeling. I think the main problem is that you've moved so fast through all of these events that they come off as just a summary. I don't feel as if I'm experiencing these events with this boy, more like he's telling me about it. There is an air of distance that keeps me from really immersing myself in this story with him.

So let's look a little more in depth at things that can fix that.

First, a huge one that every writer runs across at least ten bagillion times in their work is showing vs. telling. I did bring this up last time, but I think it would benefit you and a lot of people reading this to look at it a bit more. What this means is I want you to crack down on writing stuff like "I can hear in his voice that he's scared."

How? What does fear sound like in a king's voice? Show me, don't just tell me that he's afraid. Does his voice quiver? Does it get uncharacteristically low or soft? I don't know. 'Scared' is a vague and sort of empty word, because I can imagine what it's like to be scared. Everyone can. But fear feels different for everyone, and looks different on their faces, and sounds different in their voices. 'Excitement' is just the same. You almost have to pretend I don't know what it's like to be excited and describe how it manifests in your character, just to give me an idea.

In a lot of ways you've only told me that your MC  is doing what he is, and not showing me. I'm not there with him.

WriteWorld answered a question on showing vs. telling here and wrote a whole post on tips about it here. At the bottom they included extra links as well, in case you need additional help and reading.

The other problem I think that is contributing to the summary-like feeling of your intro is that you don't stay in the moment. I know you want this to be a fast pace, however, I think you're going a little too fast. What does your MC think when he hears his father is scared? Is it instinctive to obey? You need to stay in these important parts for a little longer instead of rushing through them.

Let's look at it this way. You've chosen to write in first person POV, which is awesome. I love first person. It is the best tool for getting inside of a character's head and being right in step with them every part of their journey. I think that might be a tool that you need a little more practice with so that you can learn to utilize it and make this story its best possible self. There is a lot of distance between your character and his actions, and that leads to it reading like a summary.

So close that distance. Don't brush over things. Get in there, describe the moments between your MC and his father and uncle, describe what it's like to turn away into the chaos of the castle and what it's like to squeeze between the bustling servants. Try writing out everything and then shave some off if you need to. Another suggestion is reading. Read from first person, even from third person, look at the differences, look at how authors stay in the moment. Look at when the authors keep you right there beside the character, and then when they decide just to summarize other goings on.

Also! I get why you were a little wary of sending one less sentence, but to be fair, I cut out the last sentence just to keep it at 250 or less words. That final sentence is in your original, so it can be seen in the original for any who are curious.


Would I keep reading?
I don't really feel ready to answer that question for you, because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and see what you can do. So! I will wait for you to resubmit and I really, really hope you do! <3 <3

Sunday, September 29, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #35

Most Wonderful Author: Amanda
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A


As she lay on the ferns inside the hut, the strong smells made her almost unable to think of anything else then the pulsating of her head. She blamed the spices. The pulsating was loud, too. It made the Shaman’s messing mere background noises. Libise knew that if she opened her eyes a looked to her left, she would see her worrying mother. A look that had begun to appear more often on her face.

Technically, she shouldn’t be in there. The evil spirits in Libise’s body could enter hers, but her mother was only a woman who worried.

The Shaman’s awful messing stopped.

“Open your eyes.” He said.

She lay under a covered window on the opposite side of the door. The smoke from the spices he had burnt in the fire made the room smoky, even though most of it went out through the hole in the roof. The hut was clean of decoration. The only things there was the leaves she lay on, the fire and the sacks filled, some more than others, with the spices he used for predictions, blessings, curses, connecting with the spirits and, of course, for his beloved exorcisms.


Strong Points –
There’s definitely some interesting things going on in here. From the very beginning, the question of what’s going on is planted in pieces through the opening instead of forced, which is a good step. I like how each detail of the conflict builds, at first with the introduction of the Shaman, then that the spirits in Libise’s body can enter her mother’s, and then at the very end with the introduction of the word “exorcism”. I like that nothing of the conflict is addressed directly, but by coincidence, and that’s good!


Some Tips –
Firstly and primarily, some grammatical and punctuation formatting issues need to be addressed. I’d recommend looking up how to format dialogue, which is an easy task. Having someone who knows their grammar well read over your writing and mark up things that need to be tweaked will also help, such as the word “lay” and the first part of the last sentence, “The only things there was the leaves she lay on,” and I’m sure there would have been more things to work on if I had more than 196 words.

Secondly, the conflict unfolds well, but the biggest thing I’d recommend is the unpacking of details, specifically with description, and this also includes using stronger verbs where necessary.

Let me fish out an example. Right in the first line:

“…the strong smells made her almost unable to think of anything else then the pulsating of her head.”

“Strong smells” means very little. What kinds of smells? It could be anything from ash to rot – we don’t kno.

It’s almost fleshed out in the second line, which is a line that I like a lot because it reveals some of the character’s voice.

“She blamed the spices.”

But it stops short of elaborating. What sorts of spices? That’s another chance to unpack details, and specifying what sorts of spices will even allude to the setting more, such as climate and terrain. Cinnamon and eucalyptus and sage all tell different stories of different places. The word “spices” alone means different things for different people.

Let’s also tackle this line as another example:

“The pulsating was loud, too.”

This is the second time it’s referenced, but I still don’t really understand what “pulsating” means in this context. Is it just a headache? Is it a throbbing headache? Is it a migraine? How does it affect her, physically? Does it make it difficult to see? Does it make the light hurt her eyes? Does it make her nauseous?

Unpacking details is important, but just as important is unpacking how the details affect the character(s). This is what makes those details matter instead of creating a laundry list of things to drown the senses. It’s one thing to say:

“The bike gleamed almost too brightly, the paint smooth against my fingertips, the metal cold enough to sting.”

It’s another thing to say:

“The bike gleamed almost too brightly, the paint was smooth against my fingertips, the metal cold enough to sting, a promise that I could never afford it.”

Not all details will reveal character like this, but the way a character describes details still says a lot more than a laundry list.

It’s also good to be particular of the connotations of words used. “The hut was clean of decoration,” for example. The word “clean” made me also automatically made me picture a clean hut. This may not be the case for everyone, but it was definitely a word that momentarily threw me off.

In short, a good way to get into unpacking details is to read the more literary-type books that make every word count in every description. Practice doing the same, and then when you’re ready to write your story, dial it back or cater it to your own personal style and voice.


Would I Keep Reading?
Not yet, but I’d like to see it again once the technical errors are improved and description strengthened!

Hope all that helps! Good luck! ♥

Monday, September 23, 2013

First 250 Word Smash! #34

Determined and Courageous Author: MBWriter
Hideous and Monstrous Editor: Victoria
Working Title: N/A


“You know you’re going to change the future, don’t you? I just know it. You’re just too special to stay here your whole life. First, you’re going to go to the sea. Then you’re going to soar above it like a seabird. You won’t know it at first o’ course. You’ll glow brighter than any other. You’re my seabird. That’s right. I know you’ll be my seabird. Fly faster. Fly stronger. You, my little seabird.”
The village sat quaintly in a valley. The wind blew. Winter, though unwelcome, intruded upon everyone’s doorstep and begged to be let in, but no one would oblige. Everything appeared dead--abandoned. But there were glows that could not be seen from afar, a little life breathed into the fireplace of its heart. Though it was weathered, this small village refused to be swept away by the foe.
When it came to it, the village was not awakened when a foreign darkness intruded its sleep. It was another darkness that had seeped into the corners of its streets. The desert was too vast and flat for much of anything to escape the attention of this village, but still it slept on. To the human eyes, nothing had transpired. Nothing could be seen. It was, as it had always been, a desert village.
“Seabird…you’re my seabird.”
The mother’s soft voice was at first only heard by her son. However, the darkness intruded upon the unsuspecting corner house and then they were being watched...


Strong Points -
Wow! Some of your description is really great, and you have a style and a tone that is definitely all your own. It sets a certain mysterious and whimsical ambiance for the rest of the novel, which is really intriguing. I like some of the visuals you have in here, like the glow of the fireplaces, the deadness right before winter sweeps in, the contrast of a desert to the ocean  and a seabird. You have some really interesting concepts going on!

Also, the mother's dialogue is pretty distinct. She has her own way of speaking, and if you can do that for one character, I'm willing to bet you can give all of your characters their own individual voices. Well done! that can be a really difficult thing to accomplish.


Some Tips -
The main issue that really stuck out at me was that you use a lot of passive verbage. Sometimes that can be okay, but it would really strengthen your narrative if you restructured your sentences and made them a little more active.

What do I mean by that? Sentences like "they were being watched" and "the village was not awakened", instead of just saying "(something or someone) watched them" or "the village slept on". When you keep "was" or "had" in there, it puts more words in the sentence and sort of dulls the effect and turns your sentence into a passive one.

For a better idea of what I'm talking about, check out what WriteWorld has to say about passive vs. active voice here. They've covered it a lot clearer than I could ever hope to!

Also, I'm not really sure if this is just a lot of background information or if this is where your story actually starts. So perhaps you need to ask yourself if this is something we can learn as we go, or if this is really where the plot begins. Is this immediately relevant, or is this a character's background that we can discover when it begins to become necessary? That's not something I can decide, only you can.


Would I keep reading?
Oh my gosh this is a really tough answer. I still have a problem with not being sure if the story has actually begun yet. For now I think I shall give you the benefit of the doubt and say yes, if not just to answer my questions. But always feel free to resubmit! We love hearing back from our writers, and we hope to hear back from you!