Sunday Snippets Critique Blog Hop

Jennifer M Eaton has started a Sunday Snippets Critique Blog Hop in which writers post 250 words of their current Work in Progress and then hop around and critique everyone else’s snippets. To join,  click here to sign up and add your name and web site address to the list.

This first week will feature the first 250 words of the works, so here is my opening 250 from my novel Rani’s Right. It’s a young adult, contemporary novel. Some of this was actually featured on the first couple of Six Sentence Sunday’s early in 2012, hopefully this snippet provides a little more continuity.

It’s not the first of January. It’s not January. It’s not even June when this nightmare started. But it’s the first chance I’ve had to put all this down on paper. Or more to the point, get it out of my system. I don’t really care where it goes: diary, notebook, tape, video, Dictaphone, someone’s eardrum or the cool spring time breeze. I don’t care.

Anywhere, just out of my head. Part of the reason I want to do this is to record what happened so I may as well be honest about it. I tried talking to Rani soon after the accident mainly because I was going back to Melbourne and she was still in a coma but I made a mess of that. I said everything I shouldn’t have and nothing that needed saying. Well, nearly nothing.

Am I being honest with myself yet? I don’t know. I’ve tried talking to my video camera but it just stared at me. Didn’t offer sympathy. Didn’t give me any advice, didn’t convince me everything was going to be OK.

Then again neither did this diary when I started writing on the page of June 21. Maybe that’s why I grabbed a handful of pages and ripped them out and tossed them into the air like autumn leaves in a park, but with frustration instead of cheer. Or because what I did manage to write was about as legible as sandblasted Egyptian hieroglyphics. Perhaps it was because my hands weren’t physically ready to write.

A word of warning about the critiquing process. Being on the east coast of Australia, my Sunday is between 16 and 21 hours (New York to Hawaii) ahead of the USA so I might not get around to critiquing your snippets until my Monday evening or even later in the week.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my opening lines and if you’re taking part in the Critique Blog Hop, I look forward to reading your constructive criticism. 🙂

Please have a look at and, if possible, critique the work of these authors, while you’re here. look for this logo. It will take you to their latest critique post:Sunday Snippets

http://mermaidssinging.wordpress.com/

http://caitlinsternwrites.wordpress.com/

http://ileandrayoung.com

http://wyrmflight.wordpress.com/

http://www.mandyevebarnett.com

http://womanbitesdog.wordpress.com/

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com

http://jennifermeaton.com/

http://jordannaeast.com

http://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com

http://ileandrayoung.com

Critique #1

Just jumping in before anyone else does on this point: I just un-hid the comments in my document (it’s been a while!) and found a massive “Hmmm” beside the line about the sandblasted Egyptian hieroglyphics. As I copied this block in for this post the Hmm I felt this time around must have triggered deja vu for a good reason!

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26 thoughts on “Sunday Snippets Critique Blog Hop

  1. Ileandra Young

    Hi Richard

    Funnily enough, I really like the line about sandblasted hieroglyphs. It formed some pretty strong imagery that I was more than happy with and it did the job of telling me exactly what you meant. So my opinion on that is to hold onto it, though of course that’s up to you!

    Reading through this piece there is a clear sense of wanting to offload some information, but I don’t know anything else. I don’t know who is speaking and as a result I don’t really identify with them.

    Since this is only the first 250 words and I’m not yet privy to what follows, it may be the case that you address this later, but at the moment I feel adrift in the opening paragraphs with no one to connect to.

    However, there is a hook in the form of the name drop of Rani and of course the accident, so I’m certainly curious. That said, I, as a reader, would want a character to latch onto fairly soon, or else I would go into the novel not knowing who it was about. I do, however, want to read more!

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Thanks for the excellent feedback! The Sandblasted Egyptian Hieroglyphics sounded a bit like a tautology to me. A bit over done.
      I agree with you about not identifying the narrator. Seems there was a lot of consensus on this. I didn’t want to reveal them too early, rather I wanted them to struggle with their thoughts first. I think I introduce them (trying not to reveal gender here!) a few paragraphs later. I didn’t think “Hello, my name is…” would be a good start. I’m sure I can do better though. 😉 I will certainly be looking at fixing this.
      Thank you.

      Reply
  2. journeyofjordannaeast

    As stated above, the pressing need to record an event, mention of an accident, and a person in a coma…all these pull the reader in. The only thing I feel worth mentioning is it’s a bit disjointed. The opening line about the months is confusing when only later is it stated that the person started writing in June. The by-any-means-necessary attitude toward getting the story out conflicts with the line about the video camera not accepting the story. Does that make sense? It just kind of disrupts the flow, removing the reader a bit. But still an intriguing opening.

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi, Jordanna. Thanks for the feedback. Disjointed probably reflects the character’s state of mind, however it’s unlikely to be deliberate on my part! Not sure about the conflict. If the video failed their expectations then wouldn’t they still be desperate to tell the story another way? But I think you’re right about the flow. And I will have to rethink the reference to the months.
      Thanks!

      Reply
      1. journeyofjordannaeast

        Hi Richard. I’m sorry if I misunderstood, but I read it as any way they could get the story out would work. If that were the case, then why didn’t the video camera work? If it were just about getting the story out, the video camera would have worked, no? I might have just read it with a different connotation than it was written. If so, I apologize. Good luck! See ya next week!

        Reply
        1. Richard Leonard Post author

          Hi Jordanna. No need to apologise. It’s my job to make this story clear so if it isn’t then I need to fix it. That’s what this whole exercise is about. It’s been very enlightening. I couldn’t do it without all this valuable feedback so I thank you for your contribution.
          The video camera thing comes from my own dislike of the things. I’d rather write than talk to a camera. yes, it needs work.
          Cheers! 🙂

          Reply
  3. mandyevebarnett

    I concur with the above comments about the focus on the months…maybe change to state the amount of months instead i.e. 6 months. It is too short a piece to really get a feel for your character but I was intrigued by the ‘friend’ in a coma and the accident. Will you be naming your main character soon after this excerpt?

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi. Thanks for you feedback. Yes, the talk about the months will change. I’ve been out-voted! The character is introduced a little further in but I will think about changing that and at the same time try not to reduce the immediate impact of the story they have to tell. Will be interesting!
      Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Jennifer M Eaton

    I am going to mildly disagree with what the others have said. This is not to say that they are not correct. I would definitely listen to them, since several had the same opinion.

    What I read was a kick-butt voice. Confused and out of touch… thus the odd time factor. I “got it” but if most people dont, than you should consider revising.

    What I wold watch though is your tense. I felt like you were shifting out of tense here and there and it threw me a little. Try reading it out loud and you might hear it.

    Also, this line

    Anywhere, just out of my head

    I had to read twice. I “got it” the second time, but you need it to be clear the first time around. COnsider revising.

    Overall, I am impressed. VERY strong voice, and I am interested. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi Jennifer. Great feedback, thank you! Glad you “Got it”! 😉 But a revision is certainly on the way now. This has been such a useful experience!
      The line “Anywhere, just out of my head” might have sounded better at the end of the previous paragraph, I think. Or not there at all.
      Not sure about the tense problem you speak of. There are a couple of instances of present tense amongst past tense but I thought that was correct. I’ll look into it a bit more.
      Thanks.
      P.S. Happy that you are impressed! 😉

      Reply
  5. caitlinstern

    Love the sense you get of the narrator–It’s a little Yellow Wallpaper–you can tell something’s not quite right…
    I wasn’t quite sure why January was important. This person is writing in a numbered journal, right? But the events start in June, so I can’t tell why it opens with ‘not January.’
    The voice is very fragmentary–like something’s coming apart–so the sentence beginning with ‘I tried talking to Rani’ dragged for me.

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi Caitlin, thanks for the feedback. Yes they are writing in a diary/journal starting at Jan 1. I should have included the chapter number at the top of the snippet which might have cleared this whole January thing up. “January 1” Or not. Either way it needs work.
      As for the fragmentary voice and the dragging sentence, good pick up! It does stick out a bit. Need some commas, perhaps or a rewrite? 😉
      Thanks again!

      Reply
      1. caitlinstern

        The fact that your narrator’s writing in a blank dated journal makes sense to me. I can see someone opening it to the first page, looking at the date, and getting distracted by how the date is wrong.
        If that had been mentioned somehow in there, I wouldn’t have even questioned it. 🙂

        Reply
  6. debyfredericks

    It came through strongly how “stuck” this character feels and the desperate need to unburden him/herself. Yet it’s all told past tense, in a passive style that reduces the impact. I’d urge you to show us the narrator writing, then tearing out pages, pacing, staring at the camera, and whatever. In some way, try to move the plot forward so things are happening “now” rather than in the past.

    I’d like also a bit more detail about where they are, personal appearance, even a name — things that will ground us in a firm place. Keep going with this, though. I’m interested to know more.

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi Deby, thanks for your feedback. I’m glad most people are picking up the need to tell the story and of how they are “stuck” in some way. You are right about bring the story into the “now”. In fact after this introduction we jump into a flashback which from then on is told in the now tense. When I started this I decided, perhaps incorrectly, to do the first part this way. Will definitely consider a change here. As well as introducing the character earlier.
      Thanks again!

      Reply
  7. ericjbaker

    I’m OK with delayed gratification in knowing who the character is. It’s only 250 words so far.

    I think it works well as a whole. Perhaps it needs some fine-tuning on a line-by-line basis, since a few parts were confusing. I like the idea that the narrator is in a hightened emotional state, but pulling back just a tad could help.

    Take everything people say with a grain of salt (except this sentence). Lot’s of great works of fiction are also challenging reads. 250 words might not be enough for us to “get” it.

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Eric. Yeah, I didn’t want to use up the first 250 words with a brief bio of the narrator. And 250 is not a lot of words. Funny, I just picked up a popular YA novel to see when the narrator introduces herself. Her name is first mentioned 11 pages in, after she introduces all her friends. So about that grain of salt…
      Having said that, I can see that there is something missing about this character that could be valuable at this point.
      Good advice.
      Cheers!

      Reply
      1. ericjbaker

        Part of it is presentation, and I mean literally the font and the graphic design of the pages. If a piece is supposed to be a diary entry, you can sell that concept better by incorporating elements that are not possible in the blog post excerpt. I mean, how would people respond to a 250-word sample of “House of Leaves”? They’d all tell the author it was unreadable. Same thing with “Butcher Boy.” Those are both best sellers with distinctly odd narrative styles because the pov character is off his rocker.

        I think you should go with it and just clean up the prose in subsequent drafts like you would with any project.

        Reply
  8. Shannon Blue Christensen

    Hi Richard,
    Others have already mentioned the time-joint thing, and the tense issue, so I won’t, other than to agree with them.

    I don’t know who the character is yet, but I like the voice and the rhythm of it, so I think that as bits get smoothed out during the drafting and redrafting, it will be very compelling. I’m curious about what happened, why is it hard to talk about, etc.

    The only other thing that stuck out oddly to me was the description “like falling leaves.” Currently, that phrase doesn’t seem to fit the overall tone of the piece – but again that could be smoothed out during editing.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hi Shannon, I must say I don’t get the problem with tense. Sometimes she’s talking in past tense about the events that occurred obviously in the past, and at other times, she’s talking in present tense about the process of putting her thoughts down on paper, now, as she’s writing. (eg “Am I being honest with myself yet?”) Have I missed something?
      Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Shannon Blue Christensen

        I am not convinced that you have missed anything. With a 250 word limit, it’s likely that I am the one missing something.

        Here’s what I can say confidently:
        I already care about what has happened, to whom, and why. That’s awesome.
        Here’s the other thing:
        If you write something, and it works just the way you want it to, and does exactly what you are hoping it does, ignore comments from complaining readers. Not everyone is going to “like” your story or “get” it – and that’s okay. Not every criticism comes from someone who knows what they’re talking about (although some people really do,so listen to them -at least, consider what they say!).

        I look forward to more, and for a first draft, that’s pretty cool.

        Reply
        1. Richard Leonard Post author

          Thanks for this. I like your thinking. It does need a bit of cleaning up, I understand that. But as I said on someone else’s post, it’s hard and probably not expected to reveal everything in the first 250 words of a 50K+ novel. Also above here somewhere I mentioned a certain narrator of a popular YA book doesn’t introduce herself till 11 pages in.
          Thanks for you positive outlook. 🙂

          Reply
  9. Let's CUT the Crap!

    This sounds like a voice-over at the beginning of a movie. I feel a camera panning what we cannot yet see maybe because it’s nothing specific yet (a hospital bed after the accident of Rani in a coma with medical staff all around?). Someone is definitely trying to sort themselves out. Not clear who this person is yet but I am curious to know more. Why the six-month time span? Did the narrator go on a bender due to guilt? Lots of possibilities but let’s have one to start stitching onto?

    Reply

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