FRIDAY FEEDBACK – SCOTT CHAMBERS

We’re looking for more volunteers to share their excerpts for Friday Feedback. So if you have a 150 word piece you want feedback on, email it to Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Today, Scott Chambers is sharing an excerpt from his adult novel, L.I.F.E.

Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning, a satisfied smile played briefly across the face of Mark Woodhouse, serial under achiever. The rapidly fading alarm of his recently acquired personal organiser was soon lost in the drone of distant traffic as it plummeted several stories toward an uncertain, but most likely unpleasant, fate. Sure, he knew it was puerile to derive satisfaction from the wanton destruction of such a helpless gadget, but when life’s pendulum scrapes nadir between mundane and shameful, you learn to take what you can get. 

If you believed the commercials, the LX-2000 Personal Organiser was compact, stylish, and years ahead of its time. In fact viewers that noticed anything in the commercial apart from the cleavage, legs and lycra that constituted the majority of its usual 30 seconds on prime time TV, could be forgiven for believing that the LX-2000 wasn’t just revolutionary, but god-damn psychic. 

If it was so bloody smart, thought Mark, it would have known not to wake me up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning.

I love the humour in this piece, Scott and your character, Mark has a very strong voice.  I’m thinking the personal organiser has a significant part to play in the story…or at least the inciting incident that starts it off. You set up early that things don’t usually work out for this character so I’m intrigued to see what happens to him next.

Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning, a satisfied smile played briefly across the face of Mark Woodhouse, serial under achiever.

This sentence doesn’t communicate clearly. Is Mark lost or is his smile lost or is he lost in thought? I’m wondering if you need the first bit, “Lost in the shadows of a gloomy August morning”.

…when life’s pendulum scrapes nadir between mundane and shameful, you learn to take what you can get.

I’m wondering if the meaning here could be clearer if you said something like when life’s at an all time low, you learn to take what you can get.

Also, I suggest you show this to the reader. The reader will be more sympathetic and care more about Mark’s story if they can see that his life is at an all time low, rather than have you tell them.

If you believed the commercials, the LX-2000 Personal Organiser was compact, stylish, and years ahead of its time. In fact viewers that noticed anything in the commercial apart from the cleavage, legs and lycra that constituted the majority of its usual 30 seconds on prime time TV, could be forgiven for believing that the LX-2000 wasn’t just revolutionary, but god-damn psychic. 

This is a huge amount of detail and it’s funny, but it takes us out of Mark’s point of view. Is it really necessary to the story to give all this information or does the reader just need to know that it is supposed to be top of the range?

It would be snappier if you combined the last two paragraphs with something like

If the now defunct, hi-tech organiser was so bloody smart, thought Mark, it would have known not to wake me up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning.

The reason I’m suggesting these cuts is that you have done well to engage the reader and make them curious about your character and why his life is a mess and what happened to push him to his limits. If you add too much detail, you lose the tension that you have so cleverly built up.

You have definitely created an intriguing character in Mark and I think readers would be keen to follow his journey.

Thanks for sharing, Scott and I hope you find my comments helpful.

Happy Writing:)

Dee

P.S. don’t forget to email me Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au if you’d like to submit a piece to Friday Feedback. 

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – Is your writing the best it can be?

Do you have trouble getting honest but fair feedback on your work? Perhaps you have a question or dilemma about something you have written?

Every Friday (except the last week of the month), I’m running Friday Feedback at this blog so you can get feedback and answers to your writing questions.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You provide 150 words of your work in progress
  2. You email it to Dee*at*Deescribe*dot*com*dot*au
  3. In your email, you also tell me:
  • The title of your piece
  • The intended word count for your finished book
  • The genre of your piece
  • The age of the intended readership
  • Where in the manuscript the extract comes from
  • Any specific issues you would like me/blog readers to look at

How to format your submission

Please send your submission as an email attachment, formatted as a ‘Word’ document in 12 point Times New Roman or Arial font, double spaced.

What happens next?

  1. I post your piece here on a Friday. (I will let you know when I schedule a date)
  2. When I post the piece I will also include my feedback and invite blog readers to contribute to the discussion
  3. People provide suggestions in the comments section of the post.

Criteria

Pieces need to be works of fiction. Sorry, NO  Picture Books.

Friday Feedback is taking a break for a couple of months so that I can finish my work in progress.

But please feel free to keep sending your pieces for feedback and I will slot them into the queue.  You can email your 150 word pieces to me. Dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Please include the word length, title, genre and target readership for your story. Also include where the piece comes in your story and any specific questions you have about writing it.

Happy writing:)

Dee

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – UNDER THE BRIDGE

Thank you to Jeannie Meakins for providing today’s piece for Friday Feedback. This is an excerpt from Jeannie’s novel for children aged 8+. It’s called, Under The Bridge.

Kyle walked across the bridge over the creek.  As his foot reached the creaking board, he smiled.  Exactly thirty-eight steps.  Beneath the bridge he could hear the moving water.  The gentle breeze in his face barely disturbed the trees.

Over the sounds of the creek, he thought he could hear crying.  He stood still for a few seconds.  Yes, there were definitely sobs.

He walked to the end of the bridge and turned down the embankment.  Then he squatted down beside his dog and took the harness off.

“Off you go, Bonnie.  Go for a run.”  He patted her head and scratched behind her ears.  As soon as he lifted his hands from her, the dog took off.

Kyle put his hands on the ground behind him and carefully made his way down the embankment feet first.

The crying came from beside him.  From under the bridge where the afternoon sun cast cold shadows.

This is a lovely gentle piece of writing with some great evocative description… and the person crying creates curiosity for the reader and gives the impression that something is about to happen.

I found myself wanting to know about Kyle and how old he was and what sort of boy he was? I have made some suggestions where I think you could create a stronger picture of him for the reader. I think by creating a stronger character in Kyle you would also hook the reader into the story more.

Kyle walked across the bridge over the creek...

(Can you use a stronger verb than ‘walked’ to give us more of an idea of Kyle’s mood and perhaps his age? For example, if you said something like, ‘skipped’, we would know that he was happy and probably quite young.)

Exactly thirty eight steps. 

Is there some reason Kyle is counting the steps? Boredom? To stop himself getting to the other end so fast? Curiosity?  This is the kind of information that gives the reader extra insight into the character and their motivations.

Beneath the bridge he could hear the moving water.  The gentle breeze in his face barely disturbed the trees.

This has a lovely tone of gentleness, but I’m trying to picture the setting. If he is walking across a bridge over water, where are the trees? How far away are they?  Are they so close that you would expect a gentle breeze on his face to affect the trees as well? Which side of the bridge are they on? You need to make these images clear for the reader.

Over the sounds of the creek, he thought he could hear crying.  He stood still for a few seconds.  Yes, there were definitely sobs.

It might be more evocative for the reader if you gave some indication of the sound of the sobs – and perhaps, how they affected him. What do they sound like to him?

He walked to the end of the bridge and turned down the embankment.  Then he squatted down beside his dog and took the harness off.

Would he react more strongly to the sobs? Would he wonder who it was? Are the sobs familiar? Would he seek out the person in trouble to find out what’s wrong? Here again, these are the kinds of actions that will give the reader insight into Kyle’s character.

I was also wondering about the dog. Would he let her off when he knows that there is someone in trouble? Wouldn’t the dog go towards the sound of the crying?

Thanks for sharing, Jeannie. This is a lovely evocative piece and you have made me wonder who is under the bridge and what is going to happen next.

Good luck with the rewrites.

If you would like to have your 150 words on Friday Feedback, please email them to Dee@DeeScribe.com.au

Please include “Friday Feedback” in the subject line and the genre, target readership and word count or estimated word count for the finished story or novel.

Happy writing:)

Dee

If you have any comments or suggestions for Jeannie, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – House Invader: The Best Surprise Ever

Tanya Suffolk has submitted today’s submission for Friday Feedback. It’s a piece from her junior novel, House Invader: The Best Surprise Ever aimed at children 7 years and over.

House Invader: The Best Surprise Ever

Chapter 1

Life’s pretty good when you’re a cat. Relaxing twenty-four hours a day is definitely one of the many benefits. There are some days that are extra special for pets like me. Today is one of those days. It’s Christmas and every year Melody, my girl, spoils me rotten. This year Melody is finally going to give me the best Christmas present of all… a new name! I’m sure of it! Now that she’s ten I think that she finally understands that Princess Boo Boo, the name she gave me when she was three, has to change. I am a boy after all!

For now though I’m going to make the most of this long summer holiday sleep in. I rub my soft, brown cheek against Melody’s warm hand. She sleepily starts to scratch behind my ear. Yes, life is good when you’re a cat!

‘Merry Christmas Princess,’ Melody yawns.

MY FEEDBACK

Life’s pretty good when you’re a cat.

Love this opening line, but then the tension falls away in the next bit, partly because the voice becomes older when you use words like ‘definitely one of the many benefits’. This is also telling not showing. You could show why life is good for this cat – and relate it to something kids would appreciate.

Perhaps you could say something like. “You get to watch television whenever you want and just by breathing mouse breath all over everyone, you get to sit in your favourite chair.”

There are some days that are extra special for pets like me.

I’m wondering if this cat would see himself as a ‘pet’ or whether he would see his humans as pets.

Today is one of those days. It’s Christmas and every year Melody, my girl, spoils me rotten.

This last part of the sentence is ‘telling’. It would come alive for the reader so much more if you showed how your character gets spoiled. Perhaps where your character is here and now shows how spoiled he is. Perhaps Melody put a rug over him while he is curled up on her bed…or slipped his food bowl next to him and he has accidentally put his head in the food. There is room to develop the character more and use even more humour to show his world to the reader.

This year Melody is finally going to give me the best Christmas present of all… a new name! I’m sure of it!

I think you might need to mention how your character might know this. Why does the character have this expectation? Just because Melody is getting older isn’t a strong enough connection. Perhaps Melody has given ‘Princess’ a hint – or something he takes to be a hint, but isn’t really one at all.

Now that she’s ten I think that she finally understands that Princess Boo Boo, the name she gave me when she was three, has to change. I am a boy after all!

There is a point of view issue here. How does he know this unless he can read her mind…or unless she has said something? Perhaps a friend has teased her about giving a boy a girl’s name? This seems to be an important part of your character’s situation so take the time to explore it more and show why Princess is making this assumption.

For now though I’m going to make the most of this long summer holiday sleep in. I rub my soft, brown cheek against Melody’s warm hand. She sleepily starts to scratch behind my ear. Yes, life is good when you’re a cat!

‘Merry Christmas Princess,’ Melody yawns.

Love this last paragraph. It shows humour and has a great hook at the end.

Tanya you have a great premise and some fabulous humour in your story that I think young kids will love.

I felt that your character was speaking directly to me and Princess came through to me with a strong voice. You need to make sure that his voice doesn’t sound too old in parts – and also show his character not just through talking, but through actions and reactions as well. Show things happening directly to him. Reflecting on things that have happened (like being spoiled at Christmas) slow the pace of the story down, which isn’t always a bad thing, but you need to be careful of overdoing it at the start. Readers want to get to know your character and their story straight away.

The text flows well, but try to minimise character’s ‘explaining’. You can say how they feel, but usually in response to a piece of action. Try to use actions where possible For instance, show how much he hates being called Princess by making him behave in the way that cats do when they are annoyed with you – perhaps he turns his back or swishes his tail.

I can see a lot of potential with this and that it would definitely appeal to your target age group. A lot will depend on how you develop your characters and incorporate the action into the story. Have you read the Selby books by Duncan Ball? These are about a talking dog. There are also the Jack Russell Pet Detectives series by Sally and Darryl Odgers which you might find helpful.

Normally you wouldn’t complete more than one book to submit a series. You would submit the first manuscript, a series outline and a synopsis for the first three books. You might even submit a ‘series bible’ showing who the characters are and where they live. You need to check out the guidelines of the publishers you want to submit to – perhaps even ask them how they would prefer you to submit your series proposal. Here’s a link to a great guest post by Alessah Darlison at this blog about how to plan and pitch a series.

Good luck with your writing, Tanya. I hope you have found my suggestions helpful.

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

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – THE MAKING OF ALBY

Today’s piece for Friday Feedback is provided by Karen Ann Collins. The 150 words are taken from Chapter 3 of her children’s adventure novel for 9-12 year old readers. Karen’s novel, ‘The Making of Alby’ is set in an English village in 1939.

Chapter 3 – Old Arthur

Alby decided to take the laneway that led from the Old Rectory to St Mary Church. He was aware of the local legend of Arthur the headless gravedigger, who walked aimlessly around the church grounds with a shovel looking for children to bury, and the thought of cutting through the graveyard terrified him. But the lane was the quickest route, and he was eager to get to the manor and the older boys who would be waiting for him.

Half skipping and half running; Alby practised his dribbling by keeping a medium sized flint rock as near to his feet as he could.  Chalky had told him that he needed to work on his technique and that until he could control the ball while running at full speed, he couldn’t hope to win a place in the Eastling Under 11s.  Kip kept close hoping he’d soon be sent to retrieve the strange looking ball. . . 

This is an intriguing, well written piece that gives us a good sense of who Alby is and the setting of the story. My suggestions mainly relate to tightening the text.

Alby decided to take the laneway that led from the Old Rectory to St Mary Church. (With something like this, I would probably just say “Alby took the laneway…” I don’t think you need ‘decided to’ because the reader can see by his actions that this is a choice Alby has made. And also, would you say St Mary or St Mary’s church?

He was aware of the local legend of Arthur the headless gravedigger, who walked aimlessly around the church grounds with a shovel looking for children to bury, and the thought of cutting through the graveyard terrified him. But the lane was the quickest route, and he was eager to get to the manor and the older boys who would be waiting for him.

Just by reordering this paragraph, I think you can tighten it up a bit. Statements like ‘he was aware of …’ aren’t really necessary because we know you are in Alby’s point of view and if he wasn’t aware of the legend, he wouldn’t know to be scared by it.

So I would probably suggest something like this.

Cutting through the graveyard terrified Alby because according to local legend, a headless gravedigger named Arthur wandered the church grounds with his shovel, looking for children to bury. But the lane was the quickest route and Alby was eager to get to the manor where the older boys would be waiting.

Half skipping and half running; Alby practised his dribbling by keeping a medium sized flint rock as near to his feet as he could.  Chalky had told him that he needed to work on his technique and that until he could control the ball while running at full speed, he couldn’t hope to win a place in the Eastling Under 11s.  Kip kept close hoping he’d soon be sent to retrieve the strange looking ball. . . .

This paragraph works well. It gives us important information about Alby, his age and what he wants.

The only thing I would comment on here is that you have changed point of view in this paragraph from Alby’s to Kip’s. I’m assuming from what you have written that Kip is a dog. Unless Alby can read Kip’s mind he can only assume what might be going on in Kip’s head, he can’t know for sure. So it might make things clearer if you said something like. “Kip kept close as if he was hoping he’d soon….”

A couple of other things you might want to think about. If you start character’s names with the same letter, it can get confusing for the reader – eg Alby and Arthur. You can always list all the names of your characters on a separate piece of paper in their letter categories and this will help you identify if perhaps you might need to change a character’s name.

I quite like your title, The Making of Alby, but I’m wondering whether this title would appeal to today’s 9 to 12 year old readers and whether they would be familiar with the term, “The Making of” and what it means.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Karen. I really like the sound of Alby and his adventure.

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

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – CELESTE

Thanks to talented teen writer, Celeste who has provided today’s piece for Friday Feedback.

Celeste is in Year 12 and is writing this piece as part of her studies.

I tell Liam to spread his map out over the table while I’m flicking through the pages of the book. Finally, I find the chapter on creatures and start explaining to Liam about what Antoinette told me at graduation. “At graduation, right before Justin and Anastasia showed up, Antoinette was telling me about the first war and the Orb. She mentioned that the Coven also had mythical creatures like dragons and goblins as part of their army’s defence”.

I pass him the book and draw a circle around the map with my finger “Look at the map Liam. The Coven’s headquarters is hidden in the middle of this massive forest. Remember how Nick said they think it’s underground and they can bet that it’s going to have defences above ground?” I’m now pointing at the pictures in the book of dragons and giant serpents “I bet that’s their defences”.

You write well, Celeste and your character has a very strong voice. You have established a strong setting and cause for tension in your story. From this piece I can tell that there is conflict ahead for your main character and her friends.

My suggestions mainly relate to tweaking the story to tighten it up and make it as strong as it can be.

When you find yourself using words like, “I tell…”, think about whether it would be stronger to actually have the person say the words.

Here’s what I mean:

I point to the table. “Spread your map out, Liam.” I flick through the book on my lap and find the chapter on creatures.

Or instead of saying things like, “I start explaining”,  just get your character to explain.

For example:

“At graduation, right before Justin and Anastasia showed up, Antoinette was telling me about the first war and the Orb. She mentioned that the Coven also had mythical creatures like dragons and goblins as part of their army’s defence.”

Try to keep things as simple and as clear as you can for the reader. This could mean breaking up some of your dialogue into smaller pieces, with responses from another character in between.

Here’s what I mean:

I pass him the book and draw a circle around the map with my finger “Look, The Coven’s headquarters is hidden in the middle of this massive forest.

(Celeste, you could put in response from Liam here.)

I find a page full of dragons and giant serpents. “I bet that’s the above ground defence that Nick was talking about.”

One more tip

Think about whether a word that ends in ‘ing’ is the best word to use. Sometimes words with these endings slow the pacing of the story down and force you to use unnecessary extra words.

For example:

Instead of “I was hunting”, use the words “I hunted”.

Thanks for sharing your piece with us, Celeste. Keep writing:)

I enjoyed reading your work and I hope you found my suggestions helpful.

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

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – HEATHER GALLAGHER

Heather Gallagher has provided today’s Friday Feedback. This is the beginning of her chapter book.

Rex was sucking the life out of an icy pole in front of the orangutan exhibit.

On the other side of the glass sat Harta – or the orangutan we would later learn was Harta – sucking his thumb. It struck me then that that was kind of weird. Thumb-sucking is one of my little brother’s more embarrassing habits.

‘Hey Ezzie,’ Rex called out to me. ‘Watch this!’

Rex, without taking his eyes off Harta, put a hand up to his head and scratched his own bright orange hair.

Harta lifted his scarily human hand up to his head – and scratched.

Rex, finished his icy pole, put down the stick, smiled and scratched his bum.

Harta, baring his own large teeth, scratched his bum.

Rex – now grinning like a finalist on ‘Australian Idol’ – put his left finger up his nose and began to pick.

Harta extended a hairy red pointer and rammed it up his own nose as if searching for buried treasure.

Heather,

This is really funny and I think kids would love the orangutan mimicking the boy. We get a really good feel for Rex’s sense of humour and this makes him endearing to the reader. His actions are  just the kind of thing a kid would do.

I would probably have liked to see you set the scene a bit more. Some things to think about – things the reader might want to know. Are they at the zoo? Why are they there? Is it someone’s birthday? (this can be a good way of getting age information across) How does your main character feel about being there? You could also take a bit more time to introduce Harta. What is he doing when he first sees Rex? Is he sitting bored in the corner or doing antics of his own? I think there is also room to let the reader know more about Harta in terms of size, age etc if relevant to your story.

I was also interested to know how old Rex was. This kind of information helps ground the reader in the story and relate to your character.

It struck me then

I’m not sure how old Ezzie is, but this sounded quite adult. I don’t think you actually need it. Could Ezzie just say, That was kind of weird?

or the orangutan we would later learn was Harta

I don’t think you need this and it takes the reader out of the story. It’s actually a point of view change. If you want readers to know that you know Harta’s name, you could have one of your characters read it on a name plate on the cage.

Rex, finished his icy pole, put down the stick, smiled and scratched his bum.

Would he perhaps pause for effect here to make sure Ezzie is watching? Also, I’m wondering if he might stuff his stick in his pocket or in the bin (being environmentally friendly).

Rex sounds a bit old to be a thumb sucker. Is this vital to the story? Perhaps the orangutan sucks its thumb like Rex used to.

You may have done this already, but in case you haven’t, the reader would need to know where this is set. Could you relate the mimicking actions to the setting.

Also, pretty soon you are going to need to give the reader an idea of the sort of story this is. A mystery? An adventure? Where is it heading?

As a reader, I’d definitely be interested in reading on, Heather and finding out more about Rex and Harta.

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

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee