Tuesday, July 30, 2013

First 250 Word Smash! #26

Most Courageous Author: Dr. Snakes 
Moustachioed and Villainous Editor: Victoria
Working Title: Life Sucks and then You Die

Death was sitting on his chest, popping bubble-gum noisily and that was, quite frankly, rude. Great, he thought, even death blows. He blinked up at the girl crushing his lungs, seemingly oblivious to his plight as she fixed her hair in her scythe’s reflective blade.

“Hey, you’re awake! Finally, I thought you were gonna be snoozing forever.” She clambered off of him quickly, almost tripping on her over-sized jumper in her hurry. Her scythe clattered to the ground which she hastily snatched up; she had the good sense to look embarrassed.

He sat up slowly, his chest aching awfully as he went, he let out a grunt of pain.
“Oh, sorry about that, I really had to hack at you,”  she sounded amused rather than apologetic. “You OK?” She looked too cheerful for someone that had just used the word ‘hack’ in a sentence.
“I’m dead,” he mumbled, “I’m dead and you’re the Grim Reaper.”

“Yep,” she wasn’t paying him any attention and was instead rubbing a blemish off of the chine, “Well your Reaper anyway.”

He looked down at his hands in awe but they looked the same as they had in life right down to the chewed nails and IV scar. He’d seen enough TV to know that something wasn’t right here, wasn’t transparency and levitation part of the deal? Casper had given him false expectations of death apparently.
“This is really anti-climactic,” he blurted out without much thought.

Strong Points -
I love  the reaper! She's cute and she's not at all what's expected. She also completely sets the mood, and starts to raise questions about what other reapers might be like, because she's awkward and has moments of embarrassment and yet she hacks the MC from his body. She is without a doubt my most favorite part.

You've also included some very nice minor details in there, like the IV scar and the chewed nails, because those slip little questions into our brains, like why an IV? Is that how he died?

Some Tips -
Well, you put some nice cincher details in, as I mentioned, but what about where they are? He's on the ground, right? Is it cold and hard beneath his back? Is it soft and comfortable? I am literally picturing them in the middle of white space, because I haven't a single clue to go by.

Also, I say this a lot, but I must let you know this is a personal preference of mine. I don't like dialogue tags, such as 'blurted'. I would much rather you show us this instead of telling me what he did. Showing can reveal even more of those little details I liked so much, and can give us a better glimpse into our MC and his thoughts and the kind of person he is. Telling us through dialogue tags doesn't have the same power or impact that this would.

I do love the reaper so, and as I said, she is my favorite part because she is so not what is expected. But consider that her comedic relief may kill some of the tension. If that's okay with you, then it's perfectly okay with me.

One last tip, this one regarding your title. A clever twist on a cliche is always appreciated, but in the end, it's just that: a cliche. We've heard this saying a lot, and unfortunately it's so worn out that it just does not catch the eye. Having a working title that you don't intend on keeping is no problem at all. It's not a bad thing to use a placeholder and it's really good that you didn't just leave it blank. You may want to check out this post on titles if you're in need of help there.

Would I keep reading?
Unfortunately, not quite yet. It's just not there, but that's okay! I hope you revise and revise and send this back to me, because I freaking love that reaper! Hope to hear from you soon! <3 <3

Monday, July 22, 2013

First 250 Word Smash! #25

Super Awesome Author: Kaitlyn Noble
Sick and Stuffy Editor: Victoria
Working Title: The Underground Prince

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.

Strong Points -
Wow, that first line plunges us right into the action! That's a great way to hook your reader, and it's a very effective way to keep them reading. The chaos of the castle gets my blood going, gets me asking questions that will definitely have me hanging. Within the first few paragraphs you've set up a really scary situation, and when the prince goes to help dad, man I'm freaking out. But I'm cheering him on, too. A prince should want to help, and since he does, I want him to help. That says a lot about his character, but a lot of good things!

Also, you've done good at clipping your writing down to a very quick pace. Your sentences are shorter, which packs a harder punch. That's good for this sort of scene, as long sentences will drag down your pace.

Some Tips -
I think you need to plump this up a little bit. you do have clipped sentences, but they are dry of a lot of sensory details, and almost sort of removed from our main character even though we're supposed to be in his head. I have little idea of what he's feeling, what he's seeing.

Is his heart pounding? Are his palms sweaty? Ears ringing? Or maybe he's eerily calm, and all of the commotion is muffled and distant? I don't know. He doesn't mention any of this, but these are things that I want to know, especially if I'm going to be in this boy's head for the entirety of a book. He needs more of a voice to flesh out what you have going.

Just as well, 'castle' is a vague term. I picture a medieval castle in all of it's stereotypical glory, but is that what it is? You have no details about the surroundings in here. Now, you can't dump a ton of them in. As mentioned, you need to keep everything quick-moving here, and unloading the castle onto your readers will slow everything down. But you can snip a few things in here and there, such as his feet scuffing the marble or what-have-you floors, or wine splattered on a tapestry, or the scent of fire and fluttering ashes wafting in through the windows. Give me something more than just 'castle'.

Also, beware of telling. Things such as 'I am a good swordsman', that sort of thing may just pack a better punch when you show them that this thirteen year-old boy has been trained with a sword. He'll hold it and know what the hilt feels like, the weight will be comfortable in his hand, and he's probably sank it into many targets and sliced through inanimate objects, but has he ever cut flesh with it?

Would I keep reading?
This is really hard. I'm so on the edge, nearly there. I can give you a soft yes by rounding up, but if you want a more solid answer I really, really hope you resubmit this to us. I would love to reread this once I have more of your MC's voice in there, and then I would be sold! Thanks so much for submitting, hope to hear from you soon. <3 <3 <3

Friday, July 19, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #24

Most Wonderful Author: HRH Evvy || Farleythewolf @ Tumblr
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A

She nearly missed him.

Work had finished an hour before nightfall. The rain was filtering through Miko’s hair, and pooling in the little trench in the lid of her empty thermos. She exhaled slowly, the weight of the mist and her weariness compressing her chest.

She glanced, out of habit, at the space between buildings— not really wide enough to be called an alley— that marked her as only a block away from home. Brownish brick walls, unmarked by doors or windows, extended back to the dead end.  On a sunny day, the light picked out the green leaves against red-tinted brick, the cement bluish, giving the spot an unkempt prettiness. Sluiced with rain, the colors muted to monochrome and make the whole place feel sketchier than it was already.

Obscured by overgrown blackberry canes as he was, she would have missed him, if not for his hair.

Startlingly white, it was rain-plastered against his face. She guessed him to be around her age, mid twenties or so. A ragged tee shirt and jeans, at least two sizes too big, were also saturated with rain and clinging so that Miko could see that he was skeleton with muscle and little else on top. He’d been sitting scrunched up in the space with his eyes shut, but at the scuff of her feet, he moved his head off the wall and hung it, looking up at her through his curtain of sopping hair.

His face bothered her, because she recognized him,   

Strong Points –

This is a really good intro. Structurally, with hints of character voice and an easy flow of varied sentences, I can see style developing and being explored, and that’s awesome. What I love most are the little artful details, the little nuances of description that might have seemed superfluous if not done well, specifically, “Pooling in the little trench in the lid of her empty thermos.” This tiny detail gives a sense of setting, of time and place, right up front, and it also hints at the character.

I also love the detail of the overgrown blackberry canes and the contrast of the alley-non-alley in the light and in the rain. Everything is extremely visual, and being that I’m also a visual person, I love when visuals are done with the least amount of words possible, because I’m also hungry for fast pacing. I like the question posed at the very beginning, and I like the way details are unpacked.

Some Tips –
There are only a few things I can suggest. One, there are a couple times where the passive voice weakens the sentence. As an example, here’s a passive sentence:

“The rain was filtering through Miko’s hair, and pooling in the little trench in the lid of her empty thermos.”

Same sentence, active:

“The rain filtered through Miko’s hair and pooled in the little trench in the lid of her empty thermos.”

My last suggestion is, I think, a combination of two things. The description is good, but I was occasionally confused, felt like there were pieces missing in the setting, something that I wasn’t getting. My understanding was that the alley-non-alley she looked in was a dead end, and I didn’t understand why there were leaves because I hadn’t been shown there were trees or plants yet. The second part of my occasional confusion was I think because of vague descriptors and subjects.

“Startlingly white, it was rain-plastered against his face”, as an example. Especially since this sentence begins a new paragraph, the subject “it” is muddled. It’s always good to lean toward the specific over the vague, the concrete over the ambiguous. Combine sentences and ideas if needed.

Another line I was confused with was “He’d been sitting scrunched up in the space”, because I didn’t know what “the space” entailed. Don’t hesitate to root the reader, to ground them in things that are easy to see versus concepts. Concepts are misleading. Victoria does this sometimes too, when she describes something along the lines of, “His hand hung there.” What is “there”? Where is it? What does it mean? “There” is an empty word, like an invisible place marker, it doesn’t carry its weight. Neither does “the space”.

Would I Keep Reading?

Yeppppp. I’m intrigued by this guy, even by just the shape of his body. I love, love, love visual writing with good pacing, and I would definitely keep reading to see if the pacing keeps up with what I like.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First 250 Word Smash! #23

Very Talented Author: Mik Tisdale
Horrible and Grouchy Editor: Victoria
Working Title: Galactic Flight: Trials of Thema

Disrespect permeated the corridors, swirling in eddies around each of his officers as they met his gaze. His rank and his five platinum medals dangled obnoxiously, even to him, on the front of his white, silver, and blue Legion jacket. By merits alone he should have earned their trust, but his crew’s faux recognition that he was their Commodore made him wonder what else he had to do to earn not only his crew’s faith in him but the galaxy’s as well.
“Sir,” one of the engineering commanders stopped him as he headed to the aviation bay, “it’s going to be a few more hours before we have the engines repaired,” the commander avoided eye contact, “are you sure we’re safe here? In the middle of Brotherhood space?”
“Questioning me already?” Nye’s voice projected.
“N-no sir.”
“The Brotherhood signed a pact, commander. During Recuperation no enemy ships are to be attacked on either side.”
“Yessir.” The commander nodded.
“Alright if you finally understand why we’re floating about in enemy territory, not being attacked, why the dzif did you feel the need to ask a stupid question?”
“Dzif sir?” The commander genuinely looked puzzled.
Nye felt his shoulders slump and his disgruntled sigh followed a quick rolling of his eyes. Staring at the commander for a moment made him want to write a dictionary for Theman phrases. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel like the idiot making situations so awkward.
“Carry on, commander,” he said as he walked around the confused commander,

Strong Points -
This is a really strong start! I have a great idea instantly of who my MC is, and where we are and what the immediate conflict is, which is so freaking awesome. There's a lot of questions that have arisen, but they're the sort of questions that will make me keep reading, because I want to know. Why doesn't his crew respect him? Is it in his head? Is he from Thema? Does that mean he has a strange accent that they don't? You've set up a very intriguing situation here, and not only do a have a secret weakness for Sci Fi, but I very much enjoy the MC you've put us in.

That aside, you also provide some very interesting glimpses at the scenery, little descriptors here and there. I love the way he sees the disrespect as it coils around them all and the way it manifests in his vision, and how even he doesn't like the badges when he sees them. Those tidbits say a lot about Nye and what kind of guy he is.

Some Tips -
I say this a lot, and every time I make sure to include that it is merely my humble preference, as there are many differing opinions. However, I think it would really strengthen your narrative to take out some of the dialogue tags. One of the tags is that his commander stops him, but that becomes a little confusing, because it's almost like having action for the dialogue tag.

But I really think it would strengthen you to take out how Nye's voice projects and to instead describe how that sounds. Does it echo down the hallway? Does his commander grimace? You could unload 'projected' for some of the same sneaks of description that I loved before. As such, I'd love it if you could spare a few words for the surroundings, because while I have the technical name of the hallway, and I know we're heading toward Aviation, I don't know what kind of hallway it is. Am I picturing the darker, more industrial look of Serenity? Or the nice, clean lines and colors of the Enterprise? Personally, I went with the Enterprise, but I don't know.

Would I keep reading?
Yes! I actually kinda like Nye, and you've set up such a scary situation here that I really want to know how they get out of it! But, if ever you want, don't hesitate to ask questions or resubmit! Thanks so much! <3 <3 <3

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Revising Process

So, I've begun the arduous task of revising book two. It's already been more of a trial than revising book one. It's a fat manuscript at about 130,000 words, which is about 20k more than the first book, maybe 10-15k more than the third. I was so determined to beat the "second book syndrome" that I finished the last word, looked at the word count, and went, "Oops."

Of course, more words =/= a better book, it's just that book two has a lot of feelings.

Anyway, a lot of what I've done so far is clip unnecessary words and phrases, and also passages between characters that don't carry their weight (as in further plot or character development). Often, that means striking out some of my favorite lines. Waaah. It's so hard.

But I've also added a whole new scene after Victoria and I workshopped a couple of characters and discovered new things about their pasts. This really changed their dynamic, and while I'm adding clincher details to other characters, I ended up adding another (albeit small) chapter altogether. I reeeally don't want to push the word count (130k is about the size of "The City of Bones") since it makes the paperback more expensive, but necessary scenes are necessary.

The strangest thing about it is that, after I finish revising a chapter, I'm already looking forward to going back and editing it again, mainly because I don't feel confident about what I've left behind, like I can still make it better.

Well, I guess it's not so strange.

It sort of happens with every revision I do, but this has been the hardest book so far to revise. I spent eight straight hours revising yesterday, and on top of the previous couple of days I spent revising, I'm only on chapter nine. Ugh. Though, chapter nine is a reeeeally good chapter, I won't lie.

A thing that helps though is that I've endured the revising process many, many times, and the practice helps me identify problems better and how to fix them. It's also helped to develop my writing. Revising teaches writers what's working and what's not working, which is why it's so important to take it seriously.

It's also important to treat writing and revising as two separate things, even if they're tied together. It's like work versus school -- one puts the words down, the other teaches what the words do. It's best not to do your schoolwork at work, but sometimes, you just gotta, and that's okay too. Just make sure that the schoolwork doesn't interfere with productivity.

Book two is now 31 chapters, and, with the addition of a new chapter, that technically puts me on 10. That means I'm a third of the way through. Not bad in three days, I guess. But if I have to have another six days of eight hours, I may, well, cry.

Here are my tips on how to get into revising:

  1. Take care of primary needs. This means I’ve eaten, because food in my belly keeps my energy up and focused, and whenever my thinking power starts to wane, I know I need to eat again and I do so as soon as I can. Anything else I might need (such as tissues or snacks) I make sure is within arm’s reach of me.
  2. Take care of ritual needs. For me, this means I go through my dashboard first, make my tea, detox for a bit, do some blog work and cross a few to-do’s off my list, perhaps go for a walk, and then begin rereading where I last left off. A set pattern that I follow makes it easier for me to get into working mode.
  3. Listen to a few songs that pump me up. Upbeat songs get my creative powers focused, but the key is that I can’t be scrolling Tumblr or reading something else simultaneously. I have to listen to a few songs, let myself think only about my story, and become fully immersed and invested. This helps create a driving need to work on it.
  4. Revise in solitude. When I write, I write to music. When I revise, it’s more like library time. I need to be able to hear my story without the music, to see it clearly and without any influence that music gives. If I don’t have absolute quiet, I keep my headphones on to block out noise. If my street’s particularly noisy, I have rain, or white noise to block out distracting noise.
  5. Seven minutes of uninterrupted focus. The first few minutes are agonizing, torturous, and I writhe and resist and only by the sheer force of will am I able to press on. But after those first few minutes, I completely switch on and go with great speed.

Revising can be fun, but it's work. If you start to burn yourself out, take a break. I prefer to do all my revising at once so that the whole book is still clear in my brain, which means I can edit something in chapter 10 and go back into chapter three to fix something tied to it. But, if I feel I'm losing too many sanity points, I'll take a day to unwind. The work will still be there when I come back.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New signatures!

Victoria and I now have some fancy new signatures to put at the bottom of the posts we make. I just -- I was trying to find something that our posts were missing, something that made them look more whole, and the signatures really give it that feeling. So I added them to the most recent posts and now they shine!

It wasn't easy, though. Well, I mean, it wasn't easy for Victoria.

We did our signatures by tablet, and I'm completely accustomed to the tablet now. Easy-peasy. Took me like five seconds. Victoria, however.

Yes, Victoria, however.

Took her about five-hundred tries. I originally saved each of her tries, but darnitall, I accidentally X'd out without saving and I hate myself for it. I did, however, end up saving one of her tries separately.

That's her attempt at the bottom. She was particularly fond of drawing crying faces. We can now officially say that the first thing she learned how to draw on the tablet was a crying face.

Anyway, aside from that, I've updated the page a little to include links to our new book series, and KSW is now listed on blognation, which is pretty cool. (It's where I found all the book review bloggers, so now I'm hip too, right?)

I'm gonna take a week break soon to revise book two, but we're going to continue working on our collection of Word Smashes! Stay cool and have a safe fireworks-in-America day!

First 250 Words Smash! #22

Since I got so much guff for "hip" and "square" last time...

Very Tasty Author: Nestor San Inocencio || Frostyowlit @ Tumblr
Starving Editor: Victoria
Working Title: N/A

As he stands in front of the witch of the woods, the boy asks, “what does the wickedest of all beings want from me?”
 With this a gust of wind whirls about them and sprawls out onto the ground. The witch, not taken back, smiles as if given a compliment and answers”, it is not what I want but what I’ll give. See, when any enter my presence they must be given a curse of some sort, but you are different for I already sense something strong in you. It is great power and can bring any to their knees”- she pauses and grins this time-“or it can be so destructive that in the end you will no longer be.” The boy lowers his head in shame as if he understands, but not even he knew what this power could be.
She stretches out her arm and with a finger brushes the boy’s hair. The witch proceeds and states, “Most who come here are usually looking for something, wander in or just simply become lost. But you, you did not wander. You walked straight into these woods…”-she opens her harms gesturing to their surrounding-“… and you hoped not to be lost but to lose yourself instead, leaving it trapped here like all those that came before you.”
The witch places her hand on the boys shoulder with slight sympathy. “My foolish boy, these woods will not give you what you hope for and for that I shall give you something,

Strong Points -
First of all, you started the story right away. You haven't dawdled with any exposition or background story, no easing us in with things that can very well be learned later. I haven't really made it a secret, but I love it when a story just gets right to the point and the pacing drops you on your feet and slaps your bottom and forces you to run just to keep up. Great job there.

The way the Witch of the Woods speaks very much sets the tone for a fairytale. She's a little bit crazy, and that's freaking awesome, but she also has that air of mystery. You've done a good job at writing a woods lady.

Also, I liked the line of the wind sprawling out across the ground, because I can imagine it in rustling leaves and spreading out. Just that one word, "sprawling", gave me that visual.

Some Tips -
You've got so much telling in here that  I don't have a very good picture at all of the scene. A lot of these vague details and words you've used can be unpacked and you can do just what you did with the wind example I used above. For example, the boy lowers his head in shame. Instead of telling us it's shame, what does it look like on your MC? Emotions look different on every person. Does he furrow his brows or fidget? We'll get a much better idea of your MC if you unpack things like that.

Also, she gestures to their surroundings--but I don't know what those surroundings are. I guess they're in a forest, but what kind of forest? Is it dense with trees, or does it have more undergrowth, like ferns? Is it day or night? Cloudy or sunny? Is this a lush forest, or is it more arid? What does it smell like? What season is it? I don't need to know all of these at once, but sprinkling these little tidbits in will greatly help.

There is a great debate on whether or not dialogue tags are bad. I can't tell you the right answer for you, but personally I find them to be redundant. You say that the Witch "states". I know that from reading ahead that she states. The boy has asked a question, so when she speaks and I read when she says, I'll know she's answering. I don't have to be told this, just as I don't have to be told that the Witch is not taken aback by the boy's question. Trust the reader to fill in some of these blanks.

Just as well, take a look at the boy's single line of dialogue. Perhaps it's something that he must say, that the Witch expects of him, or a common way of addressing him, and I don't know that just from what I've read. Maybe it's meant to say a lot about your character. However, just from what I know, it is strange for a boy to speak in such a manner.

The last thing I have to say is not so much critique as it is advice. I don't know what you have planned from here. However, just from what I can see, you are heading into some serious cliche territory. Be advised that, while some cliches may still work and there are no new ideas left to be had, you may or may not want to take a look at your story and evaluate that. Just remember that you are the only one that can tell your story as it's meant to be told.

Would I keep reading?
Not yet, I'm sorry. If you decide to resubmit, though, I would happily reread and revisit this story! So please do, because I love your Witch. Thank you so much! <3

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Follow Us Via Bloglovin'!

Follow with Bloglovin! We've set up an account there and everything so it's now official. If you use Bloglovin' and prefer to have your feed that way, look us up!

We're gonna get hustlin' on all the Word Smashes waiting in our inbox. I estimated in my brain as I organized all the remaining entries yesterday, and while I was like "YAY, we've burned through all the April submissions!" I then realized, "Holy fish paste, May-June had over 20 submissions." So, we'll be pretty darn busy for a while. Look forward to that!

If I tell you guys we're gonna get hustling, then you can hold us accountable. What? No, I didn't say anything.

More 250 Words Smashes soon!

Monday, July 1, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #21

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

Everyone in Miss Sue’s home knew how much I liked to sleep in as long as possible, even when it was a school day. So obviously, that was the one thing that wasn’t possible for me. It wasn’t the whole idea of waking up that I had a problem with. Actually, it was the sound of an air horn going off right next to my ear.

The sound woke me instantly, and as I did every time this happened, I sat up with a jolt, momentarily forgetting that I was sleeping in the top bunk. As usual, I collided with the ceiling, further molding an impression of my forehead into the drywall. I was actually surprised there weren’t any cracks yet. As I groaned in pain, rubbing my head, there were the unmistakable giggles of my worst enemy.

“Ahhhahahaha! Gotcha Scottie!” laughed my ten-year-old roommate.

I turned to face the blonde-headed menace, but he bolted from the room. “Simon! You are SO dead!” These words barely left my mouth before I jumped out of bed, running after the little pest that I was forced to share a room with.

As surprising as this may sound, this scenario was not unusual. Simon somehow knew the exactly when I wanted to sleep in and planned his attacks accordingly. I’m not exactly sure what possessed him to make my life miserable, but for whatever reason he found pleasure in it. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised since he had autism after all.

Strong Points –
There’s some good characterization here, as in I could just about peg how old Simon was even without the giveaway. Scottie’s voice is pretty definite as well, and he sounds more mature than his ten-year-old counterpart, which, I’m wondering if he’s not really older at all and if being in a home has forced him to grow up a little faster than most kids do. That’s just the sense I get!

I also liked how the action reveals a part of the setting, like how Scottie bolts upright without even realizing he’s in the top bunk, hitting his head off the ceiling. That’s an awesome way of naturally revealing surroundings as characters interact with them. I also love the image of the ceiling with the impression of his forehead. Little details that bring some real character to the bedroom.

Some Tips –
There’s a lot of telling that isn’t needed in the intro, and I understand the compulsion to fill in all these gaps as quickly as possible when the story begins with action, but the filler isn’t reading organically and actually slows what should be a quick pace.

As an example, the first paragraph could be cut entirely, beginning with the horn blaring and Scottie smacking his head off the ceiling. Now, instead of the scene reading like he jolts awake, hits his head, recovers, realizes it’s Simon and chases after him, the scene reads more like he thinks about how the sound makes him hit his head every time, and then he hits his head, and then he thinks about how he’s surprised the ceiling doesn’t have any cracks yet, and then he recovers, and then he chases after Simon and begins reminiscing about it and how Simon’s autistic.

That exposition dramatically slows down the story, and it also gives the narration more of this recounting feeling, instead of an event currently happening that the reader is entrenched in. My advice is to cut out all that unnecessary filler, let the story unfold naturally, and drop those details sparingly, or imply them and let the audience infer it themselves. Don’t be afraid to let readers walk ahead as opposed to holding their hand and leading them step-by-step.

Also, think about how you’re using your dialogue tags, not just in this passage but throughout your story. The one used here is quite redundant, since the dialogue shows Simon laughing, and the dialogue tag is, “he laughed”.

I can also tell from “These words barely left my mouth before I jumped out of bed” because this stage direction comes after the dialogue has already been spoken. Think about the placement of stage direction and dialogue, which is leading into which, because if dialogue is explained after it’s already been spoken, the reader either ignores it and moves on, or has to stop and reread.

Be aware of word choices, and it’s good to be specific. “I collided with the ceiling” gives the image of Scottie bodily colliding with the ceiling instead of simply his forehead. Also, “there were the unmistakable giggles of my worst enemy.” Where were the unmistakable giggles? “There” doesn’t tell us.

Some details could be unpacked, such as “I jumped out of bed, running after”, since he’s on the top bunk and I found myself wanting a better visual of this. I’d also suggest avoiding clichés, such as “my worst enemy”, “blonde-headed menace”, and “the little pest”. Even if your audience is middle grade or younger teen, clichés are like a comfort blanket, widely understood, safe, but also substitutes for braver, more telling word choices.

Finally, I think it’d help to have someone who knows their grammar and punctuation to check over a chapter or so with explanations to all their edits. Comma placement is a pretty tricky thing, and seriously subjective!

Would I Keep Reading?
Not quite yet. Though there are some enticing questions presented in the opening, I’d like to see some more done with the narrative first! (Also, feel free to take what I said here and apply it to the other intro you sent us and resubmit – I haven’t read it yet, since I like to do fresh readings, but you might find similar issues you can fix.)

Good luck! ♥

An update!

I apologize that things have slowed down a bit! One of the reasons is because of health issues, for which I will finally be going to a doctor for, and secondly is this:

After a great deal of thought, Victoria and I have decided to independently publish our urban fantasy series, which you can read more about. Currently the first book is available digitally at Amazon and Barnes&Noble. The paperback will be available once we OK the proof.

Recently, we've been contacting book review bloggers and have gotten some pretty awesome interest. As we've read, the self-pub process is a gradual ascent and we're definitely feeling the overall gradualness of it.

For now, this blog will play host to a lot of Word Smashes that we're going to be playing catch-up on, and we still recommend following us on our Tumblr for all the extra writing stuff we do daily. For now, look forward to 250 Words Smash #21!