Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Critique From Ms. Lydia Sharp

Okay, here it is ... my first 250 words of Starsong, with Lydia's comments attached. And just a brief rundown, Starsong is a YA contemporary literary that won an Honorable Mention in Lydia's Awesome Contest. As you will see, I have a love affair with ellipses and Lydia called me out on it. LOL

I will flat out die of embarrassment if Tanner Westin sees my notebook. {excellent opening line}
            Victor is carrying it under his arm. He’s twice my size with a face like a puppy dog, and as Finlay High’s star defensive lineman, {I'd put a period here instead of a comma} he has no trouble blocking my lunges. He chuckles like it’s a sick game, stopping in his tracks and flipping my notebook out in front of me. My fingertips brush past the cover as he lifts it out of my reach again.
            I stomp my foot. If Victor wasn’t so big I’d kick his shins in. Instead, I wrap both my hands around his mega bicep and pull down as hard as I can, dangling from his arm like a spider monkey.
            Victor grins. He heads right for Tanner with ease, my body anything but an interference. We reach Tanner huddled beside his Jeep with his buddies, looking oh-so-cool in his black skater tee. They gawk at us as we approach.
I drop down to the ground, gnawing at the insides of my cheeks.
            “Hey, Tanner, what’s up, my man?” Victor holds up a hand, waiting for contact.
            Tanner slaps Victor’s hand in his friendly guy way and flips his chin-length sandy hair to the side. “What’s up, bro?”
            “ Just stumbled across some interesting info, thought you’d like to know … {period here instead of the ellipsis. But keep the second one at the end.}  it’s about Pinks here …”
I try to be sly and reach for the notebook again.
             Victor is too fast. He blocks me with ease, flipping the notebook from under his arm and handing it to Tanner. {I would strike the underlined words and simply say, Victor blocks me with ease... Saying he's "too fast" just gets in the way of what's actually happening. It adds nothing.}
            Tanner glances at me, his face baffled. He looks from me to the notebook, turning it around to read it.
             My poor ego is about to be pulverized—I can almost taste the humble pie now. {not horrible, but kind of cliché. See if you can come up with something more unique} My jaw clenches, gazing at Tanner’s face.
            His denim blue eyes meet mine for a few seconds. It’s done now. He’s seen it—the big heart on the back cover of my notebook—the one with Tanner’s name engraved in ink inside it. I think I’m going to puke.
Tanner shrugs, handing the notebook back to Victor. “Whatever, bro … {ditch the ellipsis here} Hey, you going to the lake party tonight?”
Yeah, man, I’ll be there for sure,” Victor says.
Later, man.” Tanner steps back into his mob of guys and resumes conversation like nothing happened. He’s so cool that way.
Victor nudges me with his pudgy hand, tosses me the notebook with his other.
Okay, so Tanner was pretty cool about it, but my blood is boiling.
Oh, come on, Pinks … {no need for an ellipsis here} you’re not mad, are you? It was just a dumb prank … {or here; you've officially abused it} loosen up. It’s our last day of school! We’re seniors!” Victor smiles, but his voice has a guilty tone.
I can’t even form words. I turn my back, ready to barge through the parking lot, but the  neighbor kid from down the street appears out of nowhere. I bump right into him.
          Whoa! Easy there, killer,” Sami says. His voice is soft, but his gaze is intense.
Wow. I'm actually infuriated that I don't have a page to turn. Here's the breakdown:
1.   You have a clear handle on what is meant by "narrative voice" and "unique character viewpoint." Don't take that lightly. This is one of the main things that will make you stand out in a slush pile.
2.         You have a good balance of detail. Just enough to ground the reader into the scene, but not so much that it distracts from the story.
3.         You start with tension and you keep it going. Even when the "notebook debacle" is seemingly resolved, you don't waste time before the next thing presents itself. Definitely crucial for YA.
4.         The only thing I can truly fault you on is the punctuation. Why so many ellipses? Scrutinize every place you use one in your ms and decide whether or not it is truly needed. Too many and it detracts from its intended emphasis. Anything that puts a spotlight on the technical aspect of your writing and distracts the reader from the story or the emotion, is a bad thing. But honestly, this is minor and easily fixed. Excellent job overall.

This was really helpful. She picked out areas that were in the back of my mind. All in all, a very encouraging and constructive critique. Plus, it didn't hurt that she liked it. ;)
So any comments on this? Any further advice or suggestions? I'm all ears ... (oops, ellipsis!)


Demitria said...

Good critique...I love ellipses too :)

New follower...

Summer Ross said...

I don't have anything to add, I think the crit was spot on with what was needed. Its a good first page here.

Lydia Sharp said...

Former ellipsis abuser here, which is probably why it stood out to me so much. Haha. But really, reading over this again, I *still* want to keep reading. And I love your writing style. It's an excellent fit for this type of story. :)

LTM said...

I love that first sentence too!!! It's awesome, and Tanner is totally cool. I love your characters so far. I'm w/Lydia on the ellipses and the underlines and the cliched phrase. I'd also lose "spider monkey" b/c I hated that line in Twilight, and it's the first thing I thought of... Maybe just monkey? or maybe another thing that hangs?

This is great work, P! :o) <3

Kathryn said...

Great critique!!

JEFritz said...

Not much to add. It was very good. Reading it felt easy and comfortable. There were a few phrases I felt stuck out (I stomp my foot, my blood is boiling, the neighbor kid from down the street) but the overall plotting and characterization is wonderful.

maine character said...

you've officially abused it.

LOL. Caught red-handed.

Really good story here - I got caught up in it and thought Tanner was cool. I also liked the spider monkey image, but I haven't read Twilight, so LTM is probably right on that.

The Golden Eagle said...

This is a great critique!

Matthew Rush said...

I have to admit my suspension of disbelief was stretched a little when I found out they were seniors. Would a senior still write names in hearts on a notebook? Or was it an old notebook? I don't know, it wasn't a huge deal, but when I was a senior in high school nearly everyone was already having sex and doing drugs.

Other than that I thought this was a great piece. I felt very connected to Pink's embarrassment, and could totally see why she would like the aloof guy.

Lydia's critique was also very good, but that's no surprise, since she's brilliant.

Kindros said...

So far it's amazing. :) Love it.

Pk Hrezo said...

Okay, great suggestions, guys! Wow I didn't even realize spider monkey sounded like Twilight... don't remember that lone. But I'll definitely lose it. I'll touch up those other areas yall mentioned too.

So great to have a collective critique! THANK YOU!!

Tracy said...

Apparently, Matthew was part of the cool kids when he was a senior in a high school. As a girl who was in band at the time . . . I wasn't having sex or doing drugs, and I most definitely had guy's names absently written on my stuff. I just usually hid it on the inside cover.

I agree with everything else that was mentioned. I was an ellipses freak myself. Now, I lean toward the Em Dash.

I agree with LTM, my first thought with "spider monkey" was to Robert Pattinson. Not an entirely bad thought, if you ask me, but considering the audience you're writing for you should probably change the discription. Orangutan works. :D

Deborah Burns said...

I'm with Tracy! I totally had my crush’s name scratched into my stuff. He even saw it once as we were walking down the hall together. I was SO embarrassed! I think you captured the whole scene perfectly. I felt myself blushing for Pinks! Great submission!

Jules said...

Okay I'm stupid. I did not know ellipsis's even has a name :) Great review though!

Thank you so much for your support lately :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

M Pax said...

I just called them dots. :D That's a really encouraging critique. And, a very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing. It is helpful to read other's work with feedback as well as get it on our own work. Learning, learning, learning ...

Norma Beishir said...

I have to agree with the critique (though I also have to confess that I have a special fondness for ellipses).

Anonymous said...

I am a former ellipses addict. I've lost all of them in myh WIP but continue to abuse them in nearly every single post on my blog...and in comments on other writer's blogs.

Can't help me some dots!

I REALLY enjoyed this excerpt. I too doodled boy names on notebooks, binders, etc... in high school so I immediately identified with Pinks.

Thanks for sharing,

Christi Corbett

Oddyoddyo13 said...


I'm SORRY. But you were just BEGGING for me to do it. :) Fabulous. I really wish I could read more! Perhaps when its in stores.

T C Mckee said...

Former dot thingy abuser here too. My first draft was littered with them. I love your opening line and I agree with Lydia. You have a remarkable way of building the tension in the story. I wants to know what happens next and I like that, especially, so soon in the story. That's something I seem to fall short on in my own WIP. First chapters are so intimidating to me and I guess it's because they truly are so important, but that's where you hook your reader. Great job!!!

Elena Solodow said...

Spot-on critique.

Florence said...

A day late but never a dollar short. You have the "voice" of your readers, the tension, the angst and the confusion of those years when nothing makes sense.

Loved your piece and the critique hit the mark. Congrats to you and Christi, the two I knew from that great group of people :)

Margo Benson said...

Thank you for sharing this, it's so helpful for a newbie like myself. I felt Pink's embarrassment (I'm another who doodled a crush's name with mine at that age)and was left wanting to read more.

I also love dots.

Tony Benson said...

Hi PK. Pleased to meet you. This is my first visit to your blog.

First of all, let me say I enjoyed the excerpt very much. I too was frustrated at not being able to read on. I guess I agree about the elipses, but who am I to talk? I am guilty of the same thing to an alarming degree, so the critique has helped me too.

Posting someone's critique on your work is a bold and admirable thing to do. While I'm happy to receive critiques of my work I really don't want them out in the public eye. Kudos to you for doing so.


Margo Kelly said...

Really enjoyed the writing sample! :) I must admit, I paused when it said they were seniors... I work with senior aged girls a lot and I just can't quite picture today's seniors doing this. Freshman, sophomores - yes. Juniors, um... maybe.

Keep up the great work!!

Rachael Harrie said...

Great critique, that must have been so helpful. I love that you shared this (and I really enjoyed reading it too) :)



William Kendall said...

Kudos to both of you! Just the right kind of critique.

I've tended to like using ellipses too.