Monday, August 18, 2014

Honorary Warrior, Christy 1 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Cheryl's Feedback
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source
Interesting opening that drew me in! I assume this feather is important somehow and am curious to find out what its significance is
She ran a finger over its tufts. How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
Wonderful description in these beginning paragraphs. J
(1) As she held it, something tugged at her inside. She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!” It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it 2) .
(1) Could cut. We already know that she’s holding the feather, so this introductory clause doesn’t add any new info. In fact, the POV may even feel closer without it.
(2) I’m super curious about what her connection with this feather is. Great job at reeling me in.
(1)She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, (2)never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
(1)I wonder if this might work well moved to the opening paragraph in order to ground us in the setting.
(2) Could cut. The simile already gets this information across nicely
She (1)first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She (2) had trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island(3).
(1) Could cut. ‘First’ indicates that she’s discovered this place more than once.
(2) Insert 'had' She had trekked...
(3) * The description here is nice, but the placement of this backstory doesn’t feel organic. You’ve introduced us to Katie in the midst of an interesting discovery of this strange feather and her curious reaction to it, but then the story pauses to tell us how she found this secret spot.
 * I’m assuming Katie has been here many, many times. So why now, other than for the purpose of informing the reader, would she recount how she discovered this place?
 * Consider what information is necessary to drive the scene forward. I think the key piece of info is that she calls this place Palm Island. Can you trim this to one sentence that conveys this?
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
Just then, she was startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
Echo of startle from a few paragraphs above, but also, you’re using passive voice that gives us the effect before the cause. Can you rephrase this sentence so we experience the flash of movement with her, and then get her reaction?
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. (1)She walked toward it, but (2)the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
(1) What motivates her to do this? Can you put us in Katie’s head a little more here?
(2) If she doesn’t see the source of the sounds, how can she be certain that noise is caused by footsteps?
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She darted to catch it, but it streaked away, spiraling into the night.
Could cut.
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 
Echo of ‘toward home’ from three paragraphs above 
In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of saut̩ed onions and ground beef filled the air Рher grandmother starting dinner.
Where in the house is she? Standing in the doorway?
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
I’m unsure what task she has to work up courage for. Visiting her mom? If so, that’s somewhat unusual, so maybe see if you can make that more clear.
(1) In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
(1) I’ve become a bit lost setting-wise since she entered the house. Could you show her going to her room?
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.
Just adding a note to say that I feel like the feather from the opening seems to have gotten lost. An internal thought from Katie placed somewhere around here may work to bring it back to the forefront. It seemed important, as it’s what you choose to open the story with, but Katie seems to have dismissed it entirely. Of course, it’s possible she thinks back on the feather just after this snippet ends. If that’s the case, please ignore me. 
“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
A few of the things I especially love:
* She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice
* The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore


  1. Cheryl, WOW! Your feedback is so stellar! I really treasure every comment. I am going to print this and keep it on hand so I can check through the rest of my novel for similar issues. It's such a privilege to have you read my first page and share this insightful and helpful feedback.

  2. Hi Christy! I'm so glad you found my comments useful. :) Honestly, I'm always nervous when I crit someone's work for the first time. Performance anxiety, I guess. LOL! It was truly an honor to read your opening pages. Thanks so much for sharing (and letting me pick at) them. Best of luck with this MS!