Thanks to Joanna Holland for providing today’s piece for Friday Feedback from her young adult suspense novel,  ‘Beware of the Valentine.’

The finished novel will be about 70,000 words and this extract comes towards the beginning of the book.

The main female character has fallen down some stairs and the main male character is helping her get to the hospital.

Joanna has some concerns about the flow of this piece and welcomes suggestions.

Beware of the Valentine Extract

Great, can’t one day go by which I am not a major school headline. Jason quietly chuckled to himself.

“ Wonder what they would do if I kissed you?” he asked in a low tone.

“ Do so and I won’t be the only one needing medical attention.” I retorted.

He snorted.“ Yeah right. With the condition you’re in. You couldn’t hurt a fly.”

I sniffed. “Well, you certainly resemble one.”

“ Wrong answer,” he said quietly.  Bending his head he gave me a quick peck on the cheek. My eyes slammed open, ignoring the fresh wave of nausea. I stared at him incredulously as the whispers around us sudden took on a whole new pitch. “ Ah, that’s better. Looks like it be around the whole school before the hour’s up,” He said smugly.

“ I… Hate…You.”

My feedback 


You have created sexual tension between these two characters and the reader will want to know where it leads. In a short space you give us some idea of who these people are, but some of their dialogue and actions sounded quite adult.

Do you have a teen reader you can run your work by? If there isn’t one living in your house, you can sometimes find one at the local high school or through someone in a writing group.

If you’re writing for a teen readership, it’s really important to get the ‘teen voice’ right. This includes not just the words and phrases your teen characters use, but also their actions.

Great, can’t one day go by which I am not a major school headline? Jason quietly chuckled to himself. 

I’d reword this to clarify meaning and also make it more of a teen voice. eg Can’t let a day go by where I’m not major school news. Jason grinned to himself. 

“ Wonder what they would do if I kissed you?” he asked in a low tone.

To me, this line sounded more like something from an adult romance. I just can’t imagine a teen saying it. He’s more likely to just go ahead and kiss her if he’s the confident type. And if he wants to kiss her, isn’t he more likely to kiss her on the lips…unless they were injured in the fall.

“Do so” didn’t sound quite teen to me either. Perhaps she’d be more likely to say, “You do that and I…”

I liked the image of her eyes slamming open. Be wary of using too many adverbs (words ending in ‘ly’) they tend to weaken the writing. You don’t even really need to have her staring at him. You could just say something like, “My eyes slammed open and I fought against a fresh wave of nausea. Around us, the whispers took on a whole new pitch.

You could also show more rather than telling. For example, instead of ‘he said smugly’, show by his actions that he is smug. What do people do when they are smug? How do they stand? How does their face look? What is their body language like? If you show this instead of writing, ‘he said smugly’, the reader will get a stronger sense of your character.

Also, another thing that would smooth the flow of this piece would be to expand the actions and setting in between the lines of dialogue. Where are your characters when this is taking place? What are they doing? Is your girl character lying down? Is he crouched next to her or standing over her? How does she feel about his close proximity? How does he feel about seeing her lying there?

Thanks for sharing this piece, Joanna. You have created an interesting situation between these two characters and I think readers will want to know what happens next.

I hope you find my suggestions helpful.

Any other feedback or tips for Joanna are welcome. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)


If you’d like to submit your 150 words for the Friday Feedback segment, click on this link to find out how.