FRIDAY FEEDBACK – MIA’S MARVELLOUS MARKERS

Today, author, Tracey Slater is generously sharing a piece of her WIP, Mia’s Marvellous Markers, a humorous junior novel for ages 6-9.

Please feel free to contribute your feedback at the end of this post.

Mum was always worried about teeth turning rotten because of too much sugar. Whenever Mia or her sister complained, Mum would say to Dad, ‘Show them what lollies do, Trevor.’ Dad would beckon the girls over and open his cave of a mouth. Every tooth in Dad’s head had a black filling, making him look like he’d been crunching flies and they’d got stuck in his teeth.  Seeing Dad’s fillings stopped Mia asking, but didn’t stop Mia daydreaming about lollies, or wishing. Now, thanks to her magic pens, she could have all the lollies she wanted whenever she liked. And she didn’t even have to share.

Thinking it might taste of blueberry or bubble gum, Mia chose a blue lolly. Her mouth watered as she undid the wrapper. The wrapper crinkled like real cellophane. She popped the lolly into her mouth.

‘BLEURGH!’

MY FEEDBACK

Tracey, I love the idea of a kid who can get whatever they want just by drawing it with magic pens. There’s heaps of room for great humour here. And I think young readers will relate to parents giving them a hard time about their teeth.

If this were my manuscript, I would probably bring Mia into the story a bit earlier. You want your reader to engage with your main character as soon as possible to hook them into your story.

So I would probably start with something like this:

“See what lollies did to your Dad’s teeth,” said Mum.

Mia gaped into Dad’s cave of a mouth, at every black-filled tooth. It looked like he’d been crunching on flies and they’d got stuck there.

Mia tossed her head. Now thanks to her magic pens she could have all the lollies she wanted.

Tracey, I was wondering about the next line “And she didn’t even have to share”. Why doesn’t she have to share? I think you might need more explanation here because it makes her sound a bit unlikeable. If it’s because Mum and Dad don’t eat lollies then that’s fine – but I think you have to show the reader why. Or is it because she draws the pictures in her room where nobody can see? In that case you could mention this.

It sounded like Mia had already drawn the lollies when Mum pointed out Dad’s teeth to her. If she hadn’t, then you need to make this clearer. Does she do this in her room? Does she draw her favourite lollies – if so, what are they. By  developing this more you can show more of Mia’s character and also how she creates these things with her magic pen. I think the reader would be curious to know how all this works. Does she need special paper, does it take a while, is she a good drawer etc?

I think there needs to be more of a transition between the teeth scene and Mia choosing the lolly to make it clearer for the reader, and also you could add some action/conflict and setting here.

I’m wondering whether Mia accidentally draws things or whether she would specifically draw something that she wanted. In which case if she wanted blue bubble gum, she would draw it. There is more room for humour here too if she tries to draw something and it doesn’t come out quite as planned.  Your story, it’s up to you, but by making your character more proactive and in control of the story, you will bring her closer to the readers.

You use some great descriptions. I could picture the crinkling wrapper and I loved Mia’s reaction to putting the lolly in her mouth. I can imagine a kid being really impatient to do that.

Great story idea and loads of potential for a fun character and hilarious misadventures.

Thanks for sharing your WIP with our blog readers. I hope you’ve found my comments helpful.

If anyone else has some constructive suggestions to make about Tracey’s piece of writing, please leave your feedback in the comments section of this post.

If you’d like to submit 150 words for Friday Feedback, please email it to Dee*at*Deescribe*dot*com*au 

Happy Writing:)

Dee

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TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – FIXING THE HOLES

The lure of gold can affect our objectivity

Last Wednesday, my goat, Molly got her head stuck in the fence…not once, not twice but three times. It’s not something she normally does, but she was lured by the bright yellow flowers on the other side of the fence.  She had to have them no matter what – her immediate goal got in the way of her common sense.

I sometimes think that this is what happens with writers yearning to get their work published. We are so focussed on the ultimate goal that we can’t be objective about our work – can’t deviate from what we are doing even though there may be a better way.

Molly getting her head stuck in the fence repeatedly also made me think about the fact that making the same mistakes over and over again (and not learning from them) is something that can hold our writing back. So how do we stop ourselves from doing this?

Here’s what I do:

I make a list of all the things I need to watch out for in my next draft.

  1. Are my characters interacting with the setting or have I just put description in?
  2. Have I made my plot too complicated?
  3. Have I developed my characters enough?
  4. Have I given my supporting characters different motives and focus?
  5. Have I used repetitive language?
  6. Has my character grown and changed during the course of the story?

Molly with her rebuilt fence. Unfortunately, fixing holes in manuscripts isn't so easy.

Although I ended up with blisters and was physically tired from fixing Molly’s fence, it didn’t take a great deal of brainpower to solve the problem. All I had to do was attach finer mesh to the existing fence and use fasteners to keep it in place.

FIXING HOLES IN MANUSCRIPTS

As I twisted and attached the wire, I thought about how fixing fences is much easier than fixing holes in manuscripts.

For starters, holes in manuscripts are much harder to identify. Here’s how I identify mine.

1.    Do a scene map identifying

  • Which characters are in each scene
  • The purpose of each scene
  • What my main character’s motivation in each scene is
  • Conflict in each scene
  • Whether the scene moves the story forward in the direction I want it to

2.      Once I have my scene map I compare it to my plot diagram and see where the scenes match up, and if it’s where they should.

3.      I look at turning points, the climax of the story and whether the resolution is strong enough.

4.      I look at whether I have left the appropriate clues for the reader – will they be hooked into the story all the way through?

In much the same way as the fence rebuilding, I hope to identify the holes and fill the gaps.

How do you identify holes in your story? I’d love you to share your techniques and experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy Writing

Dee

P.S. Don’t forget to check back here for Friday Feedback and if you’d like to submit 150 words for feedback, email me Dee*at*DeeScribe*dot*com*dot*au

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – VICKI GRIFFIN

Today on Friday Feedback, we thank Vicki Griffin for sharing 150 words from her YA novel.

UGLY-FACED GNOMES mocked and cat-called as she slid down the murky, maggot-infested slime. She had no idea what to expect as she continued her revolting journey through the gruesome tunnel. When she had reached the end, or what she thought was the end, an enormous bug-eyed creature with hairy legs jumped out, grabbed her plaits and started pulling on them at the same time as he squeaked and squealed.

‘Stop that! Stop that right now, you ugly thing!’ She yelled at it trying to get loose.

I beg your pardon? A stern voice echoed behind her. ‘Molly Amelia Pottswaddle you need to standup right now and let the whole class in on the joke!’ Mrs. Snedden demanded, tapping her ruler on the edge of the desk.

‘Crikey, Mrs. Snedden do I have to?’ She stuttered realising she must have dozed off.

MY FEEDBACK

Vicki, this is great. I love the sound of Molly and the humour you have injected into this piece.

I’m not sure exactly where this comes in the story, but I think you could strengthen the ‘dream’ by using more specific description and using the setting as part of the action. You could even use some dialogue.

Here’s what I mean about the description.

With the ugly-faced gnomes, what is ugly about them? Do they have bloodshot eyes, sharp teeth, large noses, bulging eyes, slime coming out of their noses? By giving specific description for the reader, you will give them a more vivid picture.

Also. when the gnomes mock her, you could show it with dialogue.

 For example. “Not so smart now, you revolting child, the gnome glared at her through one bulging eye as she slid past, down the murky, maggot-infested slime.” (You could even mention here the feeling of maggots in her hair and wriggling all over her)

How is Molly feeling about what’s happening to her?

Try to include an emotional response. If you say, “She thought her revolting journey through the gruesome tunnel would never end,” this tells the reader her emotional response to what is happening – that it’s a terrible experience for her and she wants it to be over with.

You could use a simile or metaphor

Give the reader some idea of how enormous this bug-eyed creature is – and is it a spider or something else? How many legs does it have?

Here’s an example of what I mean: “A bug-eyed creature the size of a large hippo grabbed at her plaits with its six hairy legs and pulled them.”

Sounds

Use as many senses as you can to evoke strong images for the reader. Molly could even accidentally swallow some of the slime and you could describe how that feels and tastes.

I think the reader would be interested too in examples of the noises the creature made. What did the squeal sound like for example?

Action

‘Stop that! Stop that right now, you ugly thing!’ She yelled at it trying to get loose. 

You could make this a bit more vivid for the reader by showing how Molly tries to get loose. Does she poke the creature in one of its bulging eyes? Does she pull on its hairy leg? By showing her frantic struggle, this creates more tension for the reader.

Also, I’m not sure how old Molly is, but I’m wondering if she might say something like “You ugly creep”, instead of “You ugly thing”. Seeing as this is a YA novel, I’m assuming Molly is in her teens.

How often does Molly have these dreams?

If Molly often has dreams or visions and this is an important part of the story, you can foreshadow this for the reader just by adding the word ‘again’ to the last part of the second paragraph. (eg,  She must have dozed off again.)

Vicki, you have created a great sense of Molly’s character here and interest for the reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know how Molly is going to explain all this to her teacher.

Good luck with this story.

I hope you’ve found these comments helpful, Vicki. If anyone else has constructive feedback for Vicki, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.


Do you have a 150 word piece you’d like feedback on?

Email it to Dee*At*Deescribe*Dot*Com*Dot*au

Happy writing:)

Dee 

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – FIXING THINGS

My rebuilt kitchen bench

Recently I accidentally poured boiling water on my timber bench top. It buckled and warped and bits of timber fell off. I had to take all the pieces off, glue them down again, sand them, putty the gaps and apply several coats of varnish.

At the time it struck me that this whole process was like a metaphor for what I was going through with my current work in progress.

I have written the first draft of my YA psychological thriller, but at the moment it’s just a series of actions on paper – a plot expanded into 60,000 words. It’s telling a story, but it’s not really showing one – it’s not going to draw the reader into the main character’s world – at least, not yet.

I need to pull my manuscript apart and re-glue it so that the plot is stronger and the conflict is more powerful. I need to fill in the missing bits and to polish it till it shines.

If you read my blog post, 2012 – The Year of Possibilities and Learning, you’ll recall that one of my major goals for this year was to learn  – to hone my writing skills. Writing is a lifelong apprenticeship and I don’t believe you ever stop learning. This was confirmed for me at last year’s LA conference when I saw bestselling authors sitting in on the workshops of other bestselling authors.

Molly goat goes camping

In pursuit of my ‘learning goal’, I started 2012 by doing an Active Setting course with Mary Buckham – and it was amazing. Setting has never been one of my strong points. It has always been something I put in my work to help the reader visualise where they were, but thanks to Mary, I realised that setting has to do so much more.

It has to:

  • orient the reader in the story.
  • evoke feelings, images and emotions for the reader. In other words, have sensory detail.
  • show character
  • be part of  the conflict in the story
  • how back story
  • reflect the main character’s point of view
  • show the emotions of the main character in response to conflict and action

I’m feeling so inspired after doing Mary’s course.

With my new understanding of setting, I believe my writing is so much better:)

Scene from Chapter 9 of my WIP



BEFORE


Someone was definitely following me.

After the movies we headed to the Pancake Parlour and ordered our usual short stack and a thick shake.

Next we had a game of chess, another routine instigated by Jess. She  was a whizz at chess, so Steve and I always teamed up against her, but  we still never won. We lived in hope that it might happen one day.

AFTER


As we walked through the darkened street, the half moon flicked a  Hansel and Gretel path through the trees.

A moth fluttered past my ear.  As I shook my head, the rustle of my hair seemed amplified.  My fear caught between the strands. I stopped and the footfalls behind me stopped too. I resisted the urge to glance around.

“Come on.” Jess pulled me towards the Pancake Parlour and we ran  
inside.

As we escaped the cool air, our breath came in dragon bursts, like smoke.
Jess took her usual seat in front of the chess table. Steve and I  
squashed in together on the other side of the wooden booth.

What have you learned recently that’s going to change the way you write?

I’d love you to share with us in the comments section of this post.

FRIDAY FEEDBACK

Don’t forget, if you’d like feedback on 150 words of your manuscript, send it to me, Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au For more information, check out Friday Feedback

Happy writing:)

Dee 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – BEN MARSHALL

Thanks to Ben Marshall who is our first volunteer to send in his work for Friday Feedback. Well done, Ben. I know it’s not easy to send your work ‘out there’ to be critiqued, especially in a public forum.

Ben’s book is a dark YA adventure series set in the near-future. It tells the tale of a tight-knit circus surviving on wit, talent and crime – and how the young hero finds he cares enough about those he loves to fight for them.

BEN’S QUESTION

I’d love to know if this beginning prompts intrigue rather than confusion in the reader.

The Pricking of Thumbs.

Tog looks after the elephants and the car thefts.  Mala and Milosh throw the knives and threaten people.  Spod’s the engineer and terrifies kids with his clown act.  The Fazio family do highwire, acrobatics and burglary.  Madam Tracey tells fortunes, writes up people’s wills to certain other people’s advantage and does the blackmails.  Professore does card tricks, makes poisons, and converts stray normals for the freak show.  I do the murders.

Ben, I love the names of your characters and this paragraph has an intriguing last line and you sound like you have plenty of possibilities for conflict in your story.

There are a lot of interesting elements here, but what you have at the moment is a ‘story about a story’. What I mean here is that you are telling your story rather than showing what happens, allowing the action to unfold for the reader.

I think you have realised instinctively yourself that this start is a bit confusing and that’s because you have introduced so many different characters in the first paragraph and not introduced the main character till the last line.

If this were my story, I would sprinkle these characters throughout the story more. Allow the reader to get to know them through their actions and through things that happen in the plot.

Here’s what I mean.  

Milosh’s knife whistled past the woman’s left ear and landed in the dirt at her feet. “Give me your hand bag,” demanded  Mala, holding out her long slender fingers.

See, here the reader gets to know your characters through their actions and dialogue.

I hate murdering people.  I asked the Patronne for one of the elephants but he said everyone had to do what they’re good at.  I said I’d murder him.  He just laughed and reminded me we all got our place in the Scheme of Things.

Ben, have you thought about starting your story here? “I hate murdering people” is a great opening line. Then instead of saying”I asked Patronne…”, show it.

For example,

“Why can’t I look after the elephants, try something new?”

Patronne sneered as he flicked the rope over the tent pole. “Everyone has to do what they’re good at.” He handed me a gun. “Now go do your thing.”

Ben, can you see how adding some actions and dialogue (getting your characters to talk to each other) draws the reader into the story more?

What I really like about this second paragraph is that your character’s voice is coming through strongly. I’m getting a sense of who your character is and that’s what I need to do early in your story. Right from the start, your character needs to engage the reader.

I don’t like Professore neither.  He converted a lost girl I liked into a Nightingale.  Nightingales is what we call the ones what do music after they been converted.  It’s all they can do.  Lucky they can’t think straight no more….

Once again, Ben, if you show these things happening, it will bring the story to life for your reader.

I hope you’ve found these comments helpful, Ben. If anyone else has constructive feedback for Ben, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.


Do you have a 150 word piece you’d like feedback on?

Email it to Dee*At*Deescribe*Dot*Com*Dot*au

Happy writing:)

Dee 

MY NANO EDITS – WEEK TWO – REVISITING THE PLOT

pieces of Letters to Leonardo plot

Last week I added all the missing bits to my NaNo story, The Gathering, I fixed plot inconsistencies, scenes out of order and I developed a time line. You can read about it here.

This week it’s time to move onto plot. This is when I go right back to where it all started – when I brainstormed and plotted my novel before I’d even written the first word.

This is where I go back to my brainstorming on butcher’s paper and my rough plot arc. It’s where the notes I made while writing the novel also come in handy.

This is where I add new plot points and fix those that aren’t working right. Sometimes I remove plot points that are slowing the story down or complicating it too much.

At every new draft I re-examine the plot and try and be ‘objective’ about the structure. Having the whole plot on a piece of paper in front of me helps me get my head around the whole story and identify what’s working and what’s not.

I start to link my brainstorming balloons according to theme and this helps me identify whether my themes are coming through strongly enough. This helps me see the weight I’ve given to each plot thread/theme. I work on the ones that need more emphasis and scale back the ones that have become too prominent.

The diagrams I have shown relate to my book, Letters to Leonardo not my current work in progress.

Sometimes there is too much happening in my plot and I  realise I need to get rid of some of the complicating factors and look deeper into the main plot points and develop them more. Janice Hardy has a great post about looking deeper in to plot. It’s all about looking into how the action relates to your protagonist.

Adding more pieces to the plot during revision

In this week’s editing I will look at the main pieces of action and ask myself:

  1. Have I built up the tension enough?
  2. Do the plot points advance the story logically?
  3. Do the plot points reveal character and build towards the climax?
  4. Is the climax big enough?
  5. Have I thrown my characters deep enough into conflict? (I’m someone who avoids conflict in real life and I have a tendency to let my characters do the same.)
  6. Will the resolution be satisfying to the reader?
  7. As The Gathering is the first in a trilogy I need to also look at whether it stands alone as a story and whether it can lead on to the next book.

During revision I step back and look at overall plot

In future editing I will be looking at whether the plot reflects the motivations and needs of my characters – whether what they do reflects who they really are.

Next week in the editing process I’ll be looking deep into character and voice. Hope you can join me then.

I’d love to hear how you rework your plot during the editing process. Feel free to share your tips and experiences.

Happy writing and editing:)

Dee

MY NANO EDITS – WEEK ONE

This week is the first in a series of posts about editing my NaNo novel, The Gathering.

Wondering where to start editing your NaNo novel?

I’m going to share the processes I use, but like with all writing practices, some might not be what works for you. Feel free to leave your questions or share your tips in the comments’ section of this post.

POST NANO

By the end of NaNoWriMo I had 52,700 words, but at the moment, that’s all they are…words. The story arc is there and I have my main characters and my setting but there’s a lot to do before it becomes a cohesive story.

As I mentioned last week, while I was writing my NaNo novel I made a lot of notes about things that needed adding/deleting/fixing.

Here are some of the problems I identified.

  1. plot inconsistencies
  2. scenes in the wrong order
  3. inadequate setting detail. Need to establish the location of certain things and keep it consistent
  4. Fix time and place inconsistencies
  5. Insert some plot clues earlier – use foreshadowing
  6. Address character inconsistencies
  7. Develop character’s reactions and emotions

I have a list of things that need to be added and that’s what I’ll be focussing on this week.

At the same time, I’ll be developing a time line. This is really important in any plot. To do this, I’ll use a Calendar and insert the relevant events on the appropriate days of the month. This is probably something I should have done as I wrote, but under the pressure of NaNoWriMo I was reluctant to stop to fix anything or take note of details. I find this slows the momentum of my writing and can stop me from moving forward.

If I get all that done, I’ll be happy. In next week’s editing and post, I’ll be going back to my brainstorming diagram that I did before I even started writing the novel and looking at things I can do to develop plot and sub plots and make connections that will add layers to the story and develop the themes.

So these are the next stages in the process that I’ll be talking about in coming weeks:

1.  Revisiting my original brainstorming and plot diagrams and seeing how they can be developed.

2.  Looking at plot

3.  Examining characters and voice

4. Doing a scene by scene edit

5.  Doing a detailed line by line edit to spot typos and make the language work harder.

6.  Showing the ms to my crit buddy and reworking the ms according to her feedback

7. Leaving the manuscript to sit for at least a month before I print the whole thing out and read it again.

Good luck with your NaNo edits. I’d love to hear how you work post NaNo.

Happy writing and editing:)

Dee