The following is my three page critique from Marieke. This is a first draft and came straight from my head with no revisions. I hope any and all can find something to learn from my mistakes and Marieke's suggestions (in blue). Happy Writing to you all.
Resurrection by L.A. Colvin
The pounding on my bedroom door startled me awake. Pulling a pillow over my ears, I rollled over and breathed deep, trying to calm my racing heart . At least the racket had pulled me from my nightmare. They where always the same. Feeling like I was being watched by a dark shadow. The flutter of wings and children screaming. Distorted bodies littering a barren mountain. No amount of "talking it out" with Dr. Shallen could dilute the images seared in my mind. My mom finally stopped making me go to the counselor, chalking the dreams up to teenage angst.
There's a rule that says never start
with your MC waking up, unless there's a very good reason you're
starting at exactly that moment. More often than not, waking up is too
Of course, waking up scenes - as well as dream scenes - have been done
to great effect. Nevertheless, I think you could do without here.
A high pitched squeal accompanied the next bout of door banging. "OLIVIA! I know you're in there. Your mom said you where sleeping in today. You have exactly three seconds to open up before I come in. One...two.."
High pitched squeal sounds cliché. Also,
Emma's comment is a bit of a mouthful. How about deleting the part
about her mom? It sounds like exposition to me and I think on the
whole it flows a lot better without.
One of my favorite tips is to read what you've written out loud. It's
all the more true for dialogue. Would this be something you shouted?
All of it? Written dialogue doesn't have to be true to life completely
- it would be impossible to read - but it has to be life like.
Hearing the knob click had me bracing for the flurry of blonde hair and perfume to descend on my bed.
This paragraph is passive and telling. Rewrite. ;-)
Laughing despite the haunting images still in my head I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
"Come one, get up. Mom let me borrow the car for the day and we have to shop for prom dresses." Emma said. Emma Waterson was my best friend since kindergarten and my partner in crime. She was also my exact opposite. From her tiny blonde dancer self to my lanky brown haired klutziness. She was a picture perfect doll. A very annoying picture perfect doll. She also happened to be on the dance committee which made her double annoying, especially since I wasn't going to the prom.
Emma's name sounds a little bit too much like
Emma Watson to me. You may want to avoid that :) I normally would tell
you to be careful with descriptions, but I think it works well here.
Nevertheless - do be careful with it. Infodump and exposition most of
the time are not only unnecessary, they disrupt the flow of the
The prom comment comes out of nowhere and compared to the rest I found
it a bit jarring. Couldn't tell you why though, it just feels a bit
"Get off me Emma. I'll get up but you know I'm not going to the dance." Struggling with the covers tangled in my pajama pants I tumbled out of bed.
Same comment about the dialogue. Besides, you're
repeating what you said before.
Laughter floated down to my spot on the floor. "Of course you are. I have it on good authority that Denver is asking you to the dance." Denver St. James was the high school jock and the dream of every girls heart. Including mine. The thought of that muscled up adonis asking me out was hilarious.
Here it's getting a bit too much
like infodump after all.
"Are you serious? Who told you that?" Snatching clothes from my closet I ran into the bathroom hoping to tame my wild hair. Maybe I should get a hair cut today. Seeing my reflection I had no idea why Denver would be interested in me. I was passably pretty but nothing to stare at. Freckles were scattered across my nose which was slightly crooked from a run in with tree. Coordinated I was not. Who was Emma kidding?
Same too. Something else, there are a lot
of very specific details in this. In one of my favorite writing books
- Self-editing for fiction writers - the writers talk about the 'urge
to explain'. If you don't tell your reader the main character is
opening the door and stepping over the threshold, they would never
know the MC has entered the room. Surprisingly enough - as readers, we
do. So resist the urge to explain :)
"Well you know my cousin Jean that works at the Diner? She overhead Denver and his buddies talking about you and the dance. SOOOO, I asked him."
No words in all caps (not Olivia's name
before either). No words drawn out either unless it's completely
necessary. So "SOOO" is, simply "So".
Dropping my toothbrush I felt my face flame up. "What did you say? Oh my God Emma what did you do?"
Giggling and handing me a towel she didn't even look ashamed. "Your welcome. He said he wanted to ask you to the dance. "
Tighten the dialogue :)Try to prevent "-ing" verbs as much as
possible. They're not too bad if you use them sparsely, but they get
annoying if you use them a lot. It is a lot like "and then this
happened and then this and then this."
I was floored now. "Do you think he was serious?" Ignoring Emma's shrug I rummaging through my sandals that matched my peasant skirt. Grabbing a light sweater since the morning air was still cool this time of year I skipped down the stairs to find my mom eating breakfast on the run. Sara Dupree was the most laid back person but when she was in a hurry you needed to get out of her way.
Cut the backstory, don't explain, and don't tell.
I think that pretty much sums it up ;-) At this point as reader I'm
thinking it's fun and I like the writing, but unless you give me
something to care about I don't know if I'll continue reading.
"Oh honey, good your up. What are you girls doing today? Sometime this weekend could you give Jack a hand with this mornings delivery. I've got a date tonight so don't wait up. " mom said in one breath.
Same comments as before :)
Jack was our hired help. My mom owned a landscaping business and had broke her leg a few years back and Jack had been a godsend. Since then it had been the three of us running Bulbs and Stuff .
"Sure thing." I said. "We're shopping for prom dresses today. I think I might go this year." A smile and pat on the back was all I got as she flew out the door of our farmhouse. "Alright let's go ." I led the way out into the sunshine. Twirling around in the warm rays, the last of the nightmare fell away. It felt good to just be me. A rush of sound reached my ears, pulling me up short . Wings? No, not now.
There is a lot going on in here and toward
the end you're starting to hook me. Work from there. For my part,
start the story from there. Because there, after all, is where the
story starts! ;-)
"Did you hear that?" I looked for any sign of birds. Emma had already reached her mom's car.
No comments ;-)
"What? Hear what? Are you losing it again? You know one more episode and your mom's going to book you a room at the psych. ward." Emma said
You're basically giving us backstory
through dialogue now. Rinse and repeat :)
Along with my nightmares I was developing a nasty habit of hearing things that weren't real. I had kept most of it from my mom but Emma knew everything.
"Who is that? He's so hot. He's looking right at us. Smile Olivia." Emma waved in the direction of the street. Confused at my fear and Emma's chattering I couldn't stop myself from glancing behind me. My heart stopped a the sight of the stranger. Hot was not the right word. Dangerous. That was the right word.
This I like, a lot. This is were it gets interesting.I like your writing style. It's confident and you seem to have the
basics of writing well under control. Which makes critiquing easier
for me. Because I think the writing is there, I'm convinced you could
change it to be ace :)
There are a few spelling issues (for example - your welcome is you're
welcome). I'm not going to point them all out, but it would be good to
read through it again with a fat red marker :)
In general though, I think you could make the story a lot more active.
There are a lot of interesting things going on. The wings, the sounds.
Start there, show us why we should care. Throw us right into the story
and keep all the backstory for later. We'll find out when we need to,
but the only thing we need to know in the first few pages is what is
going on and why we need to care.
Also, show us why this story is different. There are a lot of books
out there with a shy, bookish girl falling into a paranormal world.
Based on the prom comments this seems to be the same. If it isn't, you
need to do something about that. If it is, you need to convince us the
story is unique in its own way.My other comment is the voice has to be perfect right from the start.
I don't think you have the YA voice down to a t yet. Comments like
'dilute the images', 'teenage angst', convince me the narrator is
older. The next few paragraphs have the same problem, although it does
get better. Voice is without doubt the hardest thing to learn. The
only way you can learn is by writing loads and reading loads and
continuing to improve on your craft :)