/ / Articles

Spec Faith Shredding, Round 2

Now comes the “shredding” part. In the comments tell us why you made your selections, or why you did not find a submission compelling. Please make your remarks constructive, but at the same time be honest.


The door’s open a crack. Do you want to push it wide and see what’s beyond?

Special thanks to all those who submitted openings of their unpublished manuscripts. We had a great number of volunteers, and of course this look at openings wouldn’t be possible without you.

After random selection, we have the five we’ll be looking at. The question before you is this: after reading a submission, were you hooked enough that you want to keep reading? You may vote only once, but you may select more than one submission!

Now comes the “shredding” part. In the comments tell us why you made your selections, or why you did not find a submission compelling. Please make your remarks constructive, but at the same time be honest. If you say something that won’t help the author to improve, it probably shouldn’t be said. On the other hand, if you aren’t honest, the writer won’t learn how to improve, and I’m confident that’s why each one submitted an entry.

Thanks for your part. Nothing helps a writer more, in my opinion, than unbiased feedback.

And now the entries:

Submission A
The man, a wild man, dragged the unconscious body of his pursuer behind him toward the edge of the promontory with his one arm. As he did he was aware of a memory falling away from him like sand and he thought to look back as he tread. The dirt and stones, popping and grinding underneath the torso as he pulled, issued puffs of dust from its sides and caused the man to stop and consider his foe’s one mangled arm—the arm that was the focus of his attacks when the wild man was confronted and cornered.

– – – – –

Submission B
The demon is crouched in the corner, between the Cheetos and the onion dip. It’s a small one, only about four feet tall; a low-level creeper. I flick my eyes over the area like I don’t see it–like a normal person would–and open the cooler door to get a Coke.

I watch the cashier behind me in the refection of the round mirror as he finishes ringing up a customer. He studies me intently, his one hand under the counter, probably gripping the butt of a shotgun or a bat he’s got hidden there.

The bell on the door rings as the customer leaves.

– – – – –

Submission C
Jeremy used his moth wings to flutter upwards. He pulled himself on top of a stack of crates and remained crouched. The men he’d followed to the lake pier stepped briskly toward a boat. But where was the kid they’d abducted?

Jeremy waved at Mickey, suited up as Vulture, and pointed toward the men. Mickey nodded and lifted himself into the air. Jeremy leaped off the crates and danced through the evening air toward the boat.

One of the men glanced their direction, then jerked his head back toward them. His eyes grew wide, and he pointed at them.

“Rats!”

– – – – –

Submission D
Stopping at Kroger to pick up a birthday cake, ice cream, and plastic plates and forks seemed like a good idea an hour ago, but I, Morgan Wheaton, was still short on one item on my shopping list, and the idea of looking at Wal-Mart filled me with absolute disgust. As I waited for Kroger for to hand me Scott’s birthday cake which I ordered three weeks ago, my cell phone rang.

“Morgan,” said Gregor with doom in his voice, and by the tone of his voice, I knew right away my surprise party was ruined. “Scott is home.”

– – – – –

Submission E
The steam rising from the morning coffee was no thicker than the fog settling on the young professor’s head. His head jolted up from his coffee as the bell above the door of the Beans n’ Cream rung, signaling the entry of yet another caffeine starved patron. The professor let out a low groan while returning his gaze to the hot mug of highland grog he held in his hands. Just as he was about to take his drink, the professor was rudely interrupted by a question.

“Good morning Professor Kittlewell. Why do you look so tired?”

– – – – –

Reminder: you may vote only once, but you may select more than one submission. Even though submissions have been assigned letters of the alphabet, the poll will randomize the order.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Submission B!!  This was my definite favorite.  The writing pops.  I love the obvious threat of the demon, juxtaposed with the casual mention of Cheetos and onion dip.  I love the hint that there are other kinds of them – this being a “low-level creeper”.  There is an immediate sense of a larger world/story beyond this brief paragraph, and that intrigues me.

In criticism – after the first paragraph I get confused.  Why does the cashier seem to have a hidden weapon?  Is he an enemy?  I’d think he’d be a victim, in danger from this mysterious demon.  But that said, I’m sure if I had been able to read a little farther, things would have cleared up very fast.  🙂

Hurray for another shredding!  😀  If I have time later I’ll come back and address the other entries and why they didn’t quite pull me in.

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

Submission B.  Lol, just the thought of a demon among Cheetos and onion dip made me smile :-). No doubt just a pesky minion..
 I want to know how the narrator sees the demon that no one else can see, and what happens next.  Also like the ‘homey’ writing style that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

Sub A is too disjointed and confusing; both characters seem to have only one functioning arm.

Sub C just didn’t ‘grab’ me; a bunch of kids in costume? Playing a game? Nothing for me to relate to.

Sub D is too vague, and needs editing.

Sub E no ‘hook’; nothing to invoke immediate interest.

None of the above subs enticed me to read more.  Maybe a longer excerpt might help.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Not to seem conformist, but I need to go with B as well. Here’s why:

  • Within the first paragraph, we know the type of story (contemporary, possibly urban, and supernatural) and a hint of a story-world’s rules.
  • Within the first paragraph, we know the protagonist is unique, dedicated but not too serious, and — based on the environment and notice of junk food! — very likely male. (However, we still don’t know this for sure, three paragraphs in.)
  • Within the first sentence we get humor and originality, and know the setting. I chuckled when I re-read it. Not sure if that was the author’s intent, but there it is.

Somehow I feel compelled to offer a few disclaimers:

  • I’d like to know the protagonist’s gender for certain.
  • What relation has the cashier? and why does he have a weapon standing by?

That’s all I can think of. I’d be interested to read a short back-cover-style synopsis. But as a journalist and an aspiring author, I love both this writer’s creativity and efficiency.

A few thoughts on the others, as they come to me …

Submission A
The man, a wild man,

Might I suggest He was a wild man. He dragged … Or simply: The wild man dragged …

dragged the unconscious body of his pursuer

Hooks me a bit. Unconscious might be unnecessary, though. If he’s wild, he would not think in too big of words. But then again, I like to make sure there’s as little “distance” between a novel narrator and the viewpoint character’s thinking as possible — almost as if the only difference between a third-person narration and a first-person narration is the use of I. Not sure if pursuer is necessary either; one could be hooked without it.

behind him toward the edge of the promontory with his one arm.

This could use some re-working. Oh brave, anonymous writer, mind this suggestion?

He was a wild man, [show how or why]. With one arm he dragged the limp body of his pursuer behind him, stumbling toward the cliff’s edge.

Onward:

Submission C
Jeremy used his moth wings to flutter upwards. He pulled himself on top of a stack of crates and remained crouched. The men he’d followed to the lake pier stepped briskly toward a boat. But where was the kid they’d abducted?

Not sure how this isn’t exactly working for me. A pro editor could say why, better.

First, this is an action scene, but the style doesn’t “say” that; does that make sense?

Second, it doesn’t help me that “moth wings” instantly brings to mind Arthur, former accountant turned sidekick to The Tick — blue-clad, nigh-invulnerable sworn protector of The City, a superhero whose heart is big as the moon and warm as bathwater. 😀

Submission D
Stopping at Kroger to pick up a birthday cake, ice cream, and plastic plates and forks seemed like a good idea an hour ago, but I, Morgan Wheaton, was still short on one item on my shopping list, and the idea of looking at Wal-Mart filled me with absolute disgust.

Here’s where I will ask a question or two about the philosophy behind the “hook.”

  1. For a speculative novel, it’s important to establish real life before any especially crazy stuff begins. In other words, no portals opening up in the very first paragraph. But, how does that fit with the idea of capturing a reader’s interest in the story’s opening lines?
  2. Sub-question: I agree with “hooks.” But how did the “hook” notion originate? Old novels seem not to follow this at all. Might a book require more of readers?

Apart from those questions, the narrator’s self-naming both seems out of place and adds some confusion — I can’t tell if the person is male or female. Also (and this is likely a vice of mine), previous fiction I’ve read, with a few exceptions, has re-proved to me that descriptions of parenting in a novel are monotonous. Again, that could be my vice.

Submission E
The steam rising from the morning coffee was no thicker than the fog settling on the young professor’s head. His head jolted up from his coffee as the bell above the door of the Beans n’ Cream rung, signaling the entry of yet another caffeine starved patron.

Here is where I already feel a disconnect, between narrator/narration and viewpoint character. Even without a viewpoint violation, that disparity seems to result. Would someone sitting in a cafe literally think to himself, even more “translation” into novel narration, that someone else entering is a “caffeine starved patron”?

Others have noted the lack of conflict setup in this one. I, however, see potential to draw conflict out easily, with a professor wanting to be left alone, but being interrupted by someone. What kind of person is he to think this way, though? Let’s find out in the single paragraph before the interruption, in both what is described and how it’s described. What’s his attitude? Even before the interruption, he can be shown in “stored” conflict against his inanimate surroundings. Moreover, when the interruption occurs, only then could he judge it as rude and react, thinking to himself, accordingly.

Pauline
Guest

Submission A – to disjointed, too much repetition.  It’s jarring and not in a good way.

Submission B – The only complaint I have is that when you say “flicked my eyes” – I thought about eyeballs being flicked across the room like dice.  🙂 I know what you meant, but still.

Submission C – Moths, Vultures, Rats….confusing set of images.

Submission D – needs a word edit, and a bit too boring in its normal life.

Submission E – (Second Favorite) wonder why the Prof is so tired, but still a bit domestic.

(SIDE NOTE) – will you be doing this every monday – cuz this is fun!

Galadriel
Guest

The demon is crouched in the corner, between the Cheetos and the onion dip. It’s a small one, only about four feet tall; a low-level creeper. I flick my eyes over the area like I don’t see it–like a normal person would–and open the cooler door to get a Coke.
I watch the cashier behind me in the refection of the round mirror as he finishes ringing up a customer. He studies me intently, his one hand under the counter, probably gripping the butt of a shotgun or a bat he’s got hidden there.
The bell on the door rings as the customer leaves.

This one, for all the reasons Stephen outlines. Of course, with more to go on, my feelings might be completely different.

Maria Tatham
Guest

Some reactions:

A If this were made leaner and sharper, it would catch my interest.

B is intriguing; hope it lives up to its promise.

C confused me a little, because of its unusual combination of fictional elements.
D the subject didn’t capture my interest.
E holds a promise of really going somewhere, because there is a feeling that something has happened, and that the Professor is in this ‘state’ because of that. It makes me want to read more. A suggestion: Since the initial question of the person intruding on the professor’s breakfast is a kind of punch line, it should be carefully crafted.

Maria
 

Leanna
Guest

 
Submission A
 
The phrasing of this one feels clunky to me. It has a bit of that “gradually moving in closer” that I like in omniscient POV but mostly I’m just confused, even after reading it five or six times. Is it meant to be the opening of a set-up prologue scene? If not, why are we so detached from the presented characters? Dirt and stones are issuing puffs of dust from the sides of the torso and somehow this makes the wild man consider the other guy’s mangled arm? And it also has something to do with memories being sucked away? Do you really want the focus of that sentence to start on the dirt and stones, why not start with the torso?
 
Niggling things: “behind him” is superfluous. If he was somehow dragging something in front of himself that would be worth commenting on. J “Pursuer” is an odd word choice when the character mentioned is currently unconscious.
 
Is it really strange if I say that I would maybe read more of this if it was written in poetic myth form? That’s what my mind keeps wanting to edit it into as I read it.  
 
Based solely on the 100 words, I don’t know if I would read more or not. The odd style of it could grow on me if the story really captured my interest.
– – – – –
 
Submission B

I have nothing to niggle about or shred regarding the writing of this piece. I really like the voice and style of it. It didn’t get my vote simply because I’m not hooked by angel/demon stories. If the book was recommended to me by a friend or if there was something in the cover/backcopy that seemed different/engaging then I would definitely read on past this first 100 words.
– – – – –
 
Submission C

I think this one needs a little more setting/character to flavour the actions described.
As someone else mentioned, the verb choices are a little odd. Jeremy dances toward the kidnappers? Are he and Mickey the distraction for the actual rescuers or is it supposed be intimidating somehow?… Similarly, “stepping briskly” doesn’t really fit with kidnappers embarking at night. Consider trying something else.
 
If this was the opening of a book with cover/backcopy that clearly showed rats with wings (magical or mechanical) then I am totally intrigued and would read on for awhile longer. (I have a soft spot for anthropomorphic animals, most likely because of the number of fabulous Newbery books that use them) If these are humans in moth/vulture costumes then probably not.
 
 
Submission D

I don’t know what to make of the voice in this one. Is the MC meant to be a pretentious drama queen? I’m all for it if she is. A first person narrator giving their full name is decidedly pretentious. The “absolute disgust” and “doom” make me think the character is prone to be overdramatic. If this is as it should be then emphasize it even a bit more. If not, then reconsider the exaggerations.
 
The first sentence would work much better as two. End at “list” and start new sentence here: “The idea of (shopping at or driving all the way to or…) Wal-Mart filled me with absolute disgust.”
 
Is the baker really named Kroger? That could be funny if introduced in the right way but here it is just weird. The detail that the cake was ordered three weeks ago is mundane in the context of the cake being handed to the MC. If the MC has been waiting for the cake for the last hour then that same detail becomes relevant.
Why put “with doom in his voice” AND “by the tone of his voice”? Just use the first and carry on with the rest of the sentence from there. (“Morgan,” said Gregor with doom in his voice, and I knew right away my surprise party was ruined. “Scott is home.”)
 
If the MC in this one is as overdramatic and pretentious as is hinted at, then she (or he?) is my favorite character out of the excerpts even though the excerpt itself didn’t get my vote. 🙂
– – – – –
 
Submission E

This one won my vote.
I don’t actually like coffee but I have a love for coffee shops as settings.* The first sentence confused me until the third read-through but once I understood it I liked it the idea behind it. A rewrite might make it clearer:
“The steam rising from the morning coffee was no thicker than the fog settling over the young professor’s mind.”
Using “mind” would also eliminate the awkward repetition of head.  The coffee repetition is not needed at all in the sentence, e.g. “His head jolted up as the bell above the door of the Beans n’ Cream rung…”
I love “Beans n’ Cream”, “highland grog” and “Professor Kittlewell”.
Highland Grogg is apparently an actual brand of coffee but the turn of phrase still makes me think there is something more worth reading on for, that this isn’t just any professor sitting tiredly in just any coffee shop.
–        – – – –
 
Regarding the Shreddings Contests
 
I love these! I was all *SQUEE* throughout the last one because one of the excerpts was mine and people actually liked it. 😀 It is less intoxicating but just as much fun to participate as a “shredder”. I think the length of the excerpts and the number included could both be increased slightly. Maybe do 6 excerpts and allow up to 150 words?
——
 
Advertising via Asterisk
*This love for fictional coffee shops has been nefariously exacerbated by one Jeremy McNabb and his gremlin barista Constance.
If you wish to be likewise beguiled, she makes cameo appearances in “Gravesight” and “City Sidewalks”, the Long Tail City novellas currently available on Amazon.
(no bribes were involved in the writing of this ad but I would cheerfully accept any in story form by the aforementioned author) o:)

Bob Menees
Guest
Bob Menees

B got my vote. It was the shortest of the entries and yet the clearest, also raising the most curiosity in my mind. I want to know more about the Grimm-like abilities of the protagonist, the demon interactions, and why the critter’s in that store.
CAUTION: SMALL SHREDS AHEAD.
If I saw a demon in a corner of a convenient store, I don’t think I’d notice the chips and dip, let alone the brand. Maybe the protagonist’s eyes should ‘flick’ to those.
 
That round mirror: maybe describe it as the surveillance mirror.
 
Good work!

John Otte
Member

I only voted for submission B, but I’ll get into why in just a moment.
Submission A didn’t capture my attention at all. The repetition in the first sentence (“The man, the wild man”) was a bit too much. I also felt very detached from what was happening. The description felt a bit too clinical, especially if we’re seeing things through the eyes of a self-described “wild man.” While I wondered why this wild man attacked this other person, it wasn’t enough to keep me reading.
Submission B was dynamite! The opening line was bizarre enough to slip past my defenses and brought a smile to my lips. Why is a demon hiding between the  Cheetos and onion dip? Why can this person see the demon and what’s going to happen next? I don’t know if I’d like the entire book, but this one caught my attention well enough that I’d keep reading.
Submission C was an almost. I was curious about why the two characters had wings (one moth and the other those of a vulture?). And the way the opening left off, I wondered if they really were winged rats. I know that’s probably just because of where the cut-off is for the submission, but there you go. That said, I didn’t feel any real connection with what was happening.
Submission D didn’t connect with me because I thought that the main character was a stuck-up snob. If that’s what the author is going for, well then, great! I also thought that the tone was a bit exaggerated. While someone coming home too early and discovering a surprise party for them isn’t a good thing, it’s not nearly as disastrous as the author made it sound.
Submission E . . . well, nothing really happened, did it? The professor is tired but we have no idea why. And speaking of which, we’re told he’s a professor at least three times. It’s a bit repetitious.

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

None of these submissions grabbed my mind to desire more of the story. Since editing seems simpler than explaining why I don’t like them that’s what I have done. I’m not sure if the changes are true to the intentions of the authors, but they make these excerpts more acceptable to my mind. With these changes I would be less likely to tune out so soon. Letter C is the only one I was not able to alter into something I might be tempted to continue reading…
Submission A
The wild man, drug an unconscious body toward the edge of the promontory. As he tred he was aware of a memory falling away from his mind, like sand through an hourglass, and he glanced back. Dirt and stones were popping and grinding underneath the torso as he pulled, which issued puffs of dust from its sides.  The man to stopped to consider his foe’s mangled arm—the arm that was the focus of his attacks when this foe had confronted and cornered him.
– – – – –
Submission B
A demon was crouched in the corner, between the Cheetos and the onion dip. It’s a small one, only about four feet tall; a low-level creeper. I flick my eyes over the area pretending not to see it (Normal people can’t. Don’t want to look suspicious), and open the cooler door to get a Coke.
I watch the cashier behind me in the refection of the round mirror as he finishes ringing up a customer. He studies me intently, his one hand under the counter, and probably gripping the butt of a shotgun or a bat he’s got hidden there- I’ve obviously failed in not looking suspicious.
The bell on the door rings as the last customer leaves.
– – – – –
Submission C
Jeremy fluttered upwards on moth wings. He pulled himself on top of a stack of crates and crouched there. The men he’d followed to the lake pier stepped briskly toward a boat. But where was the kid they’d abducted?
Jeremy waved at Mickey, suited up as Vulture, and pointed toward the men. Mickey nodded and lifted himself into the air. Jeremy leaped off the crates and flitted through the evening air toward the boat.
One of the men glanced their direction, then did a double take. His eyes grew wide, and he pointed as he yelled.
“Rats!”
– – – – –
Submission D
Stopping at Kroger to pick up the birthday cake, ice cream, and plastic ware seemed like a good idea an hour ago, but I was still short the plastic ware and the idea of making another stop filled me with absolute disgust. As I waited at Kroger’s bakery for Scott’s birthday cake, which I ordered three weeks ago, my cell phone rang.
“Morgan,” said Gregor with doom in his voice. I knew right away my surprise party was ruined. “Scott is home.”
– – – – –
Submission E
The soothing steam rising from his morning coffee became a fog settling on the young professor’s dozing head. He jolted up from his mug as the bell of the Beans n’ Cream rung, signaling the entry of yet another patron. The professor let out a low groan while returning his gaze to the hot highland grog wrapped in his hands. Just as he was about to take a sip-
“Good morning Professor Kittlewell. Why do you look so tired?”

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

a thumbs down and no response? well I am sorry I wasted our time trying to be helpful. 

Rachel Marks
Member

Hey Patrick, I’m not sure why you got a thumbs down, but you can’t really take things like that too personally. It might have even been an accident (I know I’ve done that before).
One thing I’ll say is that it’s generally frowned upon to “rewrite” someone’s work. It’s okay to insert ideas and explain why you feel something isn’t right or should be looked at again, but if I painted a painting you wouldn’t want to go in with your paint and add things. That’s my painting. You could tell me the shadows on the left look off, or I needed more texture in the trees, more light colors, the nose is crooked. But you wouldn’t go in and repaint it.
Hope that helps. Thanks for commenting though. I don’t think people thought you weren’t helpful.
 

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

I would want to go in and repaint it. And even when reading bestselling novels, I think how I would have written it differently if I could be allowed to do so. But I guess that’s just me. Maybe I should keep my hands off the artwork, and just gripe about it like everyone else. That’s so much more civilized and acceptable.

But I know this is just a copy here. I’m not destroying an original masterpiece. The real thing is still in the artist’s hands untouched- and unpublished… so instead I see it as one student giving advice to another student. You see what I would have done- You still have what you actually did. Take it or leave it, it’s still up to you and no damage is done, and maybe- just maybe, I helped you get published, and you don’t have to give me any credit for it. You’re welcome. 

Rachel Marks
Member

LOL…well, critiquing is in its own right a skill. I see what you’re saying, but it’s always good to explain why something doesn’t feel right to you. To be helpful it’s always best to elaborate and clarify as much as possible. Examples are a part of that, though. And can be helpful.
 
But I, as the writer of the piece, would like to know why you thought to add something or take something away. It might help me to understand what I can work on later in the ms. Or what things need clarifying that I can rework in my own way. I think this is why editorial letters are 10-12 pages long most of the time…lol. All that explaining.

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

Rachel, glad you caught the humor of my response. After posting I wondered if it might be taken more seriously than I intended.

Becky, I did read that post.

Both, I understand what you are saying… but I really don’t see how rewriting  these intros is any more offensive than giving negative feedback.  I would rather someone repaint my picture than gripe about it, and thought others might appreciate the same. I value the perspectives of others because I know I can’t see my own work objectively. I’m not that attached to my words. Maybe that’s because I haven’t found my own voice yet, and maybe I’m still too new to writing to be giving advice, but I hope others might do this for me if ever it is my intro up for the “shredding”.

Becky has pointed out how I might have earned that thumbs down…

To Anyone Whom I May Have Offended, I did not intend to propose that I know any better or have any authority to say how anything should be written. I just wanted to suggest “this flows better or makes more sense to me as a reader”. Intentions are not reality. I see I was very reckless with my paintbrush: I made many errors trying to say how I would “fix” it. By not spending the time to edit properly and give explanations for the changes I made I was disrespectful. In the careless rush of it I seem to have given the message- “you are not worth my time” and I am ashamed for that. Please forgive me.

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

And I obviously rushed too much in my editing because I see I left many typos, but I hope you can get the idea of my intentions anyway.

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

I’m trying to reply to Patrick’ s; hope I’m doing this right.

I gave you a ‘Thumbs UP’, as this is how I think an editor should edit. Nowadays, the term Editor seems to mean little more than someone who accepts or rejects.

If sent a sub to an editor, not only would I expect a response such as yours, but appreciate it as well.  As a writer, I want to know what and how to improve; the ‘what’ os easy, but the ‘how’ is difficult. That someone would take not only the time, but the interest to provide examples not only tells me he/she sees potential in my work but also is willing to offer helpful suggestions. If I accepted the suggestions, I would rewrite in my own style.

Unfortunately , many writers are very defensive of their work and maintain a ‘don’t touch my words!’ attitude; they feel someone else is rewriting them and taking over their story. Not a good way to learn, or get honest feedback.

So don’t take the negativity to heart. Those who recognize the value of your input will be grateful; those who want only praise or nothing changed will never learn or grow as a writer.  After all, no matter what the feedback is, the writer choses what to do with it.

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

Thank you, Melinda, for your encouraging words. I’ve felt that defensiveness myself, but in writing stories, seeing how another would write it is SO much more helpful to me than “It’s too this”, “there’s not enough of that”… How do I fix it? That is what I want to know. Like you said, the changes an editor makes should be taken as suggestions, and we can take it or leave it. It’s still our story.

With these intros I didn’t change many words or add much. Nothing was put like I would say it because I have respect for the words the writer choose. I just tried to cut excess wordiness, repetitions, and make confusing things clearer (that’s the hard part with a small piece because you don’t really know what was intended- perhaps my misinterpretations can be a clue to the writers on how confusing their writing came across to me). 

I participated in the one at Becky’s blog, and the last one here, and this time just feels different. There seems to be less feedback for the submitting writings, and more of a guarded tension. Not to mention it felt really weird being the only commented to get a negative response and with no feedback. If I say something wrong I want to know what it was so I can fix it. 

But just as I’ve learned to not be sensitive to critique of my writing, I should also understand that most people do not appreciate critique and not feel offended when the recipients of my critiques are not grateful for my service to them.

Thanks again, Melinda! 

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

Patrick: You’re very welcome.  I noticed very little actual ‘shredding’ of the subs; which begs the question: Were the subs that good, or were the commenters that timid?

For really ‘to the bone’ shredding, try the critiques on ALIEN SKIN 😛

I found out about this round too late to submit anything, but I don’t know how well I would fare with only 100 words. And ‘random’ selection increases the odds against being chosen.  But with several submissions, it would be time consuming to read them all and decide — esp. if a committee was doing the reading and chosing.
 

Kessie Carroll
Member

B and C were the hooks I was most interested in, but I’m partial to that genre. The other hooks were all interesting, depending on what kind of books they were supposed to be.

Submission A: The wild man dragging in pursuer behind him with a funny memory bothering him. I’d keep reading to find out what in the world is going on here, but the language is clunky. (The man, a wild man … why not just say “the wild man”?)

Submission B: Interesting hook, but the present tense turns me off. I despise present tense. I might keep reading and see if I could ignore it. That’s my personal preference, though, not necessarily the author’s shortcoming. The invisible demon in the store is a neat way to start a story.

Submission C: These are fairies, or dudes with wings, or something, so why does the other guy call them rats? Or is that the fairies saying “rats”? I’d keep reading, again, out of curiosity. Trying to establish context and all that.

Submission D: This hook reads like a Dodie Smith. “I write this with both feet in the kitchen sink.” It could go somewhere hilarious, or it might go somewhere tragic. Either way, I like the way the hook sounds. Not something I’d read without a thorough inspection of the back cover blurb, though. Just my personal preference.

Submission E: The first sentence of this confuses the heck out of me. The steam is rising up and settling on the professor’s head? What? Are we talking a figurative, caffine-starved fog? It’s not very clear. Otherwise, I’d read a few more paragraphs to see why he’s so tired and see if things got interesting. Again, depended on if I was interested in the genre or not.

Hmm. So a lot of these only work if I’m interested in the book already. They don’t grab me by the throat and scream, “No matter what this is, you must read it!” Of course, it’s hard to tell by the first 100 words. I’d definitely go a few pages into the books before I decided whether or not to read them.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

After several days, I’ve realized that the openings that didn’t hook me all failed to catch my interest for the same reasons – they were too confusing and/or the writing needed tightening.  Submission B (my vote) was clear and the writing was very tight.  Among the others there are a lot of superfluous or repetitive phrases, and dialogue that didn’t make sense.

The only exception, I’d say, is Submission D,  which didn’t hook me only because I didn’t like the main character’s tone (if he/she is meant to be arrogant, it’s well done, but I disliked him/her immediately), and also because it didn’t seem like my kind of book.  I would probably have kept reading if there had been more, though, to see how it was speculative.  🙂

trackback

[…] week at the team blog I contribute to, Speculative Faith, we took a look at the first one hundred words of five unpublished manuscripts by some anonymous […]

Betty Ann White
Guest

Based on the first 100 words, it’s hard for me to choose because I will only commit to spending time with a book if I like the protagonist. Most of these give me no information in that area. 

A – NO.  Creepy people seem to be afoot, but there’s no accompanying creepy tone to hook me. It’s as if we are watching the action through  binochulars. Words like “wild” are cheap. It’s better to show it than say it. Describe his hair, his gait, his eyes.
B – YES. I like the narrator’s nonchalant reaction to the demon. He’s either courageous or jaded. I’d like to know which. The present tense would have put me off once, but The Hunger Games showed me how urgent this style can be. It’s not my genre, so I’d probably borrow it rather than buy it. But I said the same thing about The Hunger Games, which I now own on paper and on Kindle!
C – NO. The moth wings, without a suspenseful build up, sound silly. An opportunity was wasted here, so I already don’t trust what follows.
D – NO. You’re asking me to join someone who’s having a bad day at Kroger or Wal-mart.  Not interested.  And “doom” is another one of those cheap words.

E – NO! The sleepiness of the professor put me right to sleep. 

trackback

[…] Patrick J. Moore: a thumbs down and no response? well I am sorry I wasted our time trying… 11:13 am, February 13, 2012 […]

Maria Tatham
Guest

Dear Patrick, and everyone, I think my comments were way earlier than any of this, but I have to jump in with some encouragement. Today I lost a contest. Here are two of the judges responses to a tale about Parzival, who saves a damsel in distress from an enchanter who is a changeling (raven).

Very intriguing opening.  Nice imagery throughout.  However, the plot
was awkwardly paced; the middle and very end seemed to go faster than
the beginning.  Many of the plot twists were not well-explained and did
not make sense, particularly why the knight was the cause of the lady’s
death, or what was going on with the bird and the Enchanter’s soul.  A
little illogical, and the ultimate point was not clear.

Nice opening with strong description and good emotion. The story seemed to be slightly off, with a lot of confusing moments and questions that weren’t quite answered well. The motive’s behind a lot of the character’s actions weren’t really explained well enough as well as some of the scenes. What the story meant to teach wasn’t quite shown very well and the concept with the bird-things was…confusing.   

Well, I…almost cried, which used to be my way when rejected. To be so totally misunderstood after having worked hard on my story over a couple of years! Best wishes to you all! Being misunderstood and getting trounced, with a pat on the shoulder as part of the torture, equals a normal thing in a writer’s life. Forgive me for coming back, without having read a lot that happened since I last looked in.

I need a pat on the back without the rest of the stuff.
:0)

  

 

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

Thanks for sharing this, Maria. I’m not sure why you singled me out to bring your post to my attention… unless I came across as a cold heartless contest judge who just doesn’t understand what it feels like to have writings critiqued or rejected. If I came across that way I am sorry.

I tried to offer help in the way I receive it best. Visual concrete changes. The feedback you received from those judges sounds like the vague unhelpful critique that I was complaining about. Telling me it was confusing doesn’t help me clear up the confusion. It’s invisible to me. When you are the author who has invested yourself into a project, all those “illogical” things make perfect sense to you- if they hadn’t you wouldn’t have written it. You know why your children do what they do no matter how weird the neighbor thinks they are. How can I flesh out the logic so they will get it, without spelling it out and ruining the imagery of the story? I think that’s where other eyes and minds giving feedback can be very helpful, and someone who will give editing feedback is a superhero- in my opinion.

Congratulations on having a completed work that has made it into contests! (I’ve not finished anything very long yet- too many tangents, and too much procrastination) What kind of feedback have you gotten from friends, family, or a writing group? If you’ve let others read and give feedback, could they be counted on to be honest, or were they too close to be objective? If you hadn’t received  this kind of feedback on this work before, then maybe it’s really not that bad- maybe your story just lost out in relation to the others in the contest and the judges are obligated to say Something?

Whatever the reason for the responses you got, I wouldn’t dismiss it, but would ask an objective friend with some editing experience to take a run through it specifically looking at these complaints. I’ve had a couple of different friends do this with some of my short stories using the editing features in Word- then I was able to go through and either accept or reject whatever changes were made. I usually end up accepting most of them- they also can include notes to explain why she made the changes that were made. Very helpful, and I started not making some of those same mistakes in later writings.

Don’t give up, Marria. From what you’ve shared of your story it sounds very intriguing to me.  Some stories just need to find the right audience to receive them. But considering the feedback and continuing to polish the story in the meantime is wiser than stubbornly sticking to an already declared “finished” product looking for the publisher who will “get it” as-is. It’s not finished until it’s published. And even then, I know of a few published authors who re-edited their work for later releases, continuing to improve their story.

I hope this is a pat-on-the-back, and not more blah-blah stuff you already know and didn’t want to hear again. Keep going, and thank you for sharing! 

Maria Tatham
Guest

Patrick, just want to thank you for your kind response and suggestions of how to take my failure in the best way possible way!

The reason I singled you out was this: I kept getting follow-up comments on this post in my mailbox, but because I’d done what I could to participate I didn’t return here.  More than one of the emails coming into the mailbox had your name with it. I thought that something was going on, that you’d submitted one of these hooks and had a problem with feedback, so in my usual way I just wanted to return to encourage you and everybody involved with my story of how life can zing you, and how I felt about it.

You are a very helpful part of this group.

Maria
 

Rachel Marks
Member

Hey all! Thanks for the votes! I admit to being B. 🙂 This clip is from the opening of my wip called Darkness Brutal. Here’s the teaser: Sixteen-year-old Aidan can see demons, smell emotions, and feel the past in his skin, but will it be enough to save his little sister from the deal his mom made with the the Devil all those years ago?
 
And the rest of the scene can be read here: http://www.shadowofthewood.com/id83.html
 
I’d love to hear if you think I followed through (a few people made comments about expectations).
 
Anyway, thanks!
 

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

The demon’s words were “upside down and backwards” … Very cool.

Enjoyed reading the whole chapter  ( a few misspelled words), and I would definitely  like to read more. 

Good work:-)

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

You definitely follow through!  What a great read!  I think perhaps it was a little-detail heavy at times, making it a little chaotic to read, but overall it was wonderful.  🙂

Rachel Marks
Member

Thanks guys! Oh, and I suck at spelling. Anything you see I’d love you forever if you pointed it out 😉

Melinda Reynolds
Member
Melinda Reynolds

Para. 13, 4th sentence:  Does’t should be Doesn’t (Doesn’t work, obviously.)

Para. 16, 3rd sentence:  it’s should be its (…can’t see its…)

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

Nice. I like the rhythm. I think if I had more than 100 words on this one I might have gotten into it and left it alone. Kind of reminds me of my impression of Divergent. A friend handed it to me one day telling me I needed to read it- I read the first page and thought – No, the writing is too choppy. She insisted I read it. I got into it and mostly enjoyed it, but still felt it was too choppy, and the setting wasn’t well developed, and there seemed to be some inconsistencies to me- lol. I’m just too nit-picky I think. I see this story being like that. Frank Peretti really turned me off from stories with demons, but this is clearly different. I wasn’t hooked on the intro, but I could be convinced to read this without too much prodding. 😉

Maria Tatham
Guest

Rachel,

Expectations! Wow. Anyone who reads this would have to say that, yes, you made good on the promise in your hook. It was rivetting.

Maria

Rachel Marks
Member

Thanks Maria! 🙂 Appreciate you reading!!

Maria Tatham
Guest

Rachel, forgot to say: just be clear that you show him heading back indoors after moving the cashier’s body to the alley.

Leanna
Guest

I thought the authors were all going to be revealed yesterday?

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

In her followup column, Readers and Writers, Becky said any writers who wanted to “own” their work could come forward, if they wanted. But the whole idea of the feedback was to maintain default anonymity.

trackback

[…] Those of us who are pre-published also learn from contests or exercises like the Spec Faith “Shredding” held a couple weeks ago. Any objective opinion can serve as correction from which we can learn and […]

Royce Hunt
Guest

E. Stephen Burnett recently let me know that my submission was submitted to constructive criticism here. First, as the author of “E”, let me say thank you for identifying the sin of repetition. Secondly, as some of the criticism revolved around context, let me supply the paragraph following the intro.

“Good morning Dr. Kittlewell. Why do you look so tired?”Kittlewell gave a stare as if to say, “How dare you follow an untruth with an interrogative establishing the untruth of the first proposition!” To the student who, with good intentions, asked the question, the quiet and menacing stare seemed to last for an eternity. Finally, Kittlewell, whilst cracking a slight smile, answered.”Oh, the usual reason. I went bar hopping last night til around 2 AM. Between 2 and 3 AM, I went down to the train depot to spray paint obscenities in large letters across the freight cars. Sometime between 3 and 4 AM, I stopped by the neighbor’s house to “water” her rosebush. She wonders why they wilt so. I’m rather surprised that she hasn’t caught me yet. She waits on her porch with such diligence, but succumbs to a deep slumber by around 3 AM. I really would have waited to get home, but I have such a small bladder, and her rosebush is so convenient.”The student, taken aback, mumbled an “Oh… well… um… see you in class,” and then made his way to the counter. Kittlewell thought to himself, “I love scaring Freshmen.”