Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 4, 2013

Free Fall Friday – December Results

Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you.  Editor Kate Sullivan is back from vacation and I have been able to sit up for a few hours the last three days, so things are getting better.  Of course, the bronchitis or pneumonia has kept me from doing most of the resolutions I had set for myself. I’ll have to start on them after I get better.  Hope all of you are well and have thrown out the old and are focusing on the new.

I want to thank Kate for going out of her way to do these critiques and helping writers to improve their writing skills.  I know it is much appreciated.  Even if your first page is not here, you can learn so much by reading and hearing what an editor say about someone else’s work.

Here are the four pages for critique.  First the full text and then Kate’s thoughts.

HOLLY HART AND HER MISCHIEVOUS PAL FROM OUTER SPACE by Rosie Pova –  Middle Grade

Holly Hart peeped from around the hallway corner with her camera in hand, waiting for Kyle to come out. She tried to contain her giggles when she heard the whirring noise through the door, which was her cue to get in position for the shot and be ready to run.

A moment later, her big brother stormed out of the bathroom, looking like a ghost—his head and face were covered with baby powder, matching the color of his t-shirt and jeans. With his eyes half-open, he was scanning the hallway. When Holly moved forward and pointed the camera lens at Kyle, he opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, the flash blinded him. He froze in mid-motion, resembling a sketch from a comic book.

“Facebook update—your fans will like this!” Holly yelled as she was running through the hallway and down the stairs, waving her camera in the air. “It’s super funterrific—you just got Hollyharted!”

Holly had been using that phrase since she was five, and though she’d been told by pretty much everyone it was a bit childish for a nine year-old, she wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. Maybe soon—after her big-10 birthday… Maybe.

“Mom!” Kyle shouted.

Mrs. Hart came out of her bedroom, startled.

“Look at me, Mom, I look like a statue. Holly put baby powder in my hairdryer.” His voice rose with every word. “I’m gonna get that little prankster this time,” he promised as he wiped his eyes.

“Go wash off, you’ll be late,” Mrs. Hart told him and sighed. “I’m gonna deal with Holly,” she cried out with frustration.

Holly struggled to hide her camera in a high kitchen cabinet when she heard her mom’s steps approaching. A shot this good made for a promising tease, she thought, it would be a shame to lose it. She tried to hurry up, moving some cereal boxes on the shelf.

HERE’S KATE’S CRITIQUE: (IN BOLD)

HOLLY HART AND HER MISCHIEVOUS PAL FROM OUTER SPACE by Rosie Pova –  Middle Grade

Holly Hart peeped from around the hallway corner with her camera in hand, waiting for Kyle to come out. She tried to contain her giggles when she heard the whirring noise through the door, which was her cue to get in position for the shot and be ready to run.

A moment later, her big brother stormed out of the bathroom, looking like a ghost—his head and face were covered with baby powder, matching the color of his t-shirt and jeans (insert more detail here. Are the clothes that color cause of her prank or because that’s just his outfit?).

With his eyes half-open, he was scanning the hallway (passive voice). When Holly moved forward and pointed the camera lens at Kyle, he opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, the flash blinded him. He froze in mid-motion, resembling (This is a weak word. you’re not saying he looks like a sketch, he just maybe looks a little like one) a sketch from a comic book.

“Facebook update—your fans will like this!” Holly yelled as she was running through the hallway and down the stairs, waving her camera in the air. “It’s super funterrific—you just got Hollyharted!” (Either use “hollyharted” or “funterrific”– both are a bit much for page one.)

Holly had been using that phrase since she was five, and though she’d been told by pretty much everyone it was a bit childish for a nine year-old, she wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. Maybe soon—after her big-10 birthday… Maybe. (I like this paragraph a lot. Sets character, and voice. Very strong middle grade feel without feeling stilted.)

“Mom!” Kyle shouted. (More descriptive word? “Mooooooo-ooooom!” Kyle bellowed.)

Mrs. Hart came out of her bedroom, startled. (also weak phrasing, like she’s just sort of strolling out of her bedroom casually. not to mention– wouldn’t she have come barreling out after the first yell?)

“Look at me, Mom, I look like a statue. (doesn’t sound very teen. “Look at me, Mom. I’ve got to take another shower. No WAY am I gonna be on time now!”)

Holly put baby powder in my hairdryer.” His voice rose with every word. “I’m gonna get that little prankster this time,” (Too “telly”– “little prankster” stinks of background info. Try “She’s not going to get away with it this time” or “You said she’d stopped, mom” or something.) he promised as he wiped his eyes.

“Go wash off, you’ll be late,” Mrs. Hart told him and sighed. “I’m gonna deal with Holly,” she cried out with frustration. (She cries out right after sighing. The two don’t mesh well.)

Holly struggled to hide her camera in a high kitchen cabinet when she heard her mom’s steps approaching. A shot this good made for a promising tease, (Unclear what she means by “Tease” she thought, it would be a shame to lose it. She tried to hurry up, moving some cereal boxes on the shelf.)

________________________________________________________________________________

A BOY AND HIS CREATURE by don e. nelson A Middle Grade Novel For Boys

Book One: The Shipwreck of the H.M.S. Flying Fish

Setting: The year is 1805 on board a British exploration ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

“The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men, boys and creatures but not so for the wild sea.”

Saying goodbye to his mother, father, and little brother Jonas had been difficult but becoming the captain of a Royal Navy man-of-war would be a thousand times harder. Holding onto the hip-high wood railing of the H.M.S. Flying Fish, Nicholas, a twelve-year-old boy, tall for his age, stared up at the crow’s nest. The lookout, known as the eyes of the ship, swayed in the hissing wind a hundred and fifty feet above the main deck.

Pointing towards the southwest horizon, the sailor shouted down to the Captain. “Sir! We’re in for a heavy blow.”

Captain Thomas Blackwood, standing on the quarterdeck, trained his spyglass on the horizon.

He turned to the First Officer. “Never mind; there’s nothing in it, only some rain. We’ll remain at full sail. We are months away from hurricane season.”

Listening to the straining sails, the boy thought of when he shipped out. His decision to leave home had been a good one. Because his parents couldn’t afford to send him to the naval academy, he chose a Royal Navy exploration ship to get some sailing experience before applying for midshipman training. Nicholas did have some second thoughts about Captain Blackwood, the first one he would serve under.

When they shoved off, he remembered the Captain said, “Men. Let us hope, wish and pray for great discoveries. May they never be few and far between.”

The man was a glass, half full, type of man, pessimistic to a fault.

A short while latter, the lookout called down. “Captain, sir! This is no easy squall. Those clouds are darkening the heavens and heading straight for us.”

HERE’S KATE’S CRITIQUE: (IN BOLD)

A Boy and His Creature by don e. nelson A Middle Grade Novel For Boys

Book One: The Shipwreck of the H.M.S. Flying Fish

Setting: The year is 1805 on board a British exploration ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean (don’t include on a first page. This will be apparent in flap copy, and I think it’s fairly clear that it’s historic from the Book title. Plus, you should be setting the stage in the text not with a headline.)

“The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men, boys and creatures but not so for the wild sea.” (great line! does it need attribution or is it your own? (or your own character’s?)

Saying goodbye to his mother, father, and little brother Jonas had been difficult but becoming the captain of a Royal Navy man-of-war would be a thousand times harder. Holding onto the hip-high wood railing of the H.M.S. Flying Fish, Nicholas, a twelve-year-old boy, tall for his age, stared up at the crow’s nest. The lookout, known as the eyes of the ship, swayed in the hissing wind a hundred and fifty feet above the main deck. (Disorienting. Telling us of the goodbye to the family first places us at that goodbye, at the dock. but that’s not where we are!)

Pointing towards the southwest horizon, the sailor shouted down to the Captain. “Sir! We’re in for a heavy blow.”

Captain Thomas Blackwood, standing on the quarterdeck, trained his spyglass on the horizon.

He turned to the First Officer. “Never mind; there’s nothing in it, only some rain. We’ll remain at full sail. We are months away from hurricane season.”

Listening to the straining sails, the boy thought of when he shipped out. His decision to leave home had been a good one. Because his parents couldn’t afford to send him to the naval academy, he chose a Royal Navy exploration ship to get some sailing experience before applying for midshipman training. Nicholas did have some second thoughts about Captain Blackwood, the first one he would serve under. (Honestly, I don’t feel like I “need” the family and career background. I’m much more interested in the Captain.)

When they shoved off, he remembered the Captain said, “Men. Let us hope, wish and pray for great discoveries. May they never be few and far between.”

The man was a glass, half full, type of man, pessimistic to a fault. (Wouldn’t being a half-full man make him optimistic?) (But I do love these lines. GREAT characterization!)

A short while latter, the lookout called down. “Captain, sir! This is no easy squall. Those clouds are darkening the heavens and heading straight for us.” (VERY good way to start a book! Would love to see more in the captain’s decision to disregard his first warning. Does he dismiss him as too young and inexperienced? Too reactionary? Give us more character development of the captain in how he responds and makes his decision. Draw it out for us.)

________________________________________________________________________________

SEEKING SCARLETT by Cathy Ballou Mealey   Middle Grade

Puff! Puff! Scarlett sprinted toward the clearing, pausing once to catch her breath. Behind her, a wolf crashed through the underbrush, tracking the scent of her fear. The sound faded slowly into the distance. ARROOO! The wolf howled bitterly at his loss of his prey. Though she had safely reached the halfway mark, his angry bay still caused Scarlett’s neck to prickle with fear. She pushed on.

At the cliff’s edge, terns squawked shrilly and circled in the sky. Scarlett scanned the rocky ledge, unable to discern the cause of their distress. Dark grasses stood sentry in the still night air. Nothing seemed amiss. She clutched her woolen cloak tightly around her shoulders and stepped out.

Scarlett picked her way along the path, grateful for the faint gleam of moonlight. Forgetting to bring her grandmother’s lantern had been her first mistake. Lantern light might have prevented her from taking that wrong turn in the forest, too close to the wolf’s terrain. Scarlett knew she must be more careful now that she alone was entrusted with this important mission.

Whoosh! Wind whipped her disheveled hair into her eyes and sprayed pebbly dust across her bare legs. I must be getting closer, she thought. She peered into the gloom. The wind squall parted an ugly clump of bracken, revealing a smooth glowing orb. Scarlett sighed with relief. She crouched low and crept closer, listening to the deep thrum that pulsed from within the moon globe.

HERE’S KATE’S CRITIQUE: (IN BOLD) 

SEEKING SCARLETT by Cathy Ballou Mealey   Middle Grade

Puff! Puff! Scarlett sprinted toward the clearing, pausing once to catch her breath. Behind her, a wolf crashed through the underbrush, tracking the scent of her fear. The sound faded slowly into the distance. ARROOO! The wolf howled bitterly at his loss of his prey. Though she had safely reached the halfway mark, his angry bay still caused Scarlett’s neck to prickle with fear. She pushed on.

At the cliff’s edge, terns squawked shrilly and circled in the sky. Scarlett scanned the rocky ledge, unable to discern the cause of their distress. Dark grasses stood sentry in the still night air. Nothing seemed amiss. She clutched her woolen cloak tightly around her shoulders and stepped out.

Scarlett picked her way along the path, grateful for the faint gleam of moonlight. Forgetting to bring her grandmother’s lantern had been her first mistake. Lantern light might have prevented her from taking that wrong turn in the forest, too close to the wolf’s terrain. Scarlett knew she must be more careful now that she alone was entrusted with this important mission.

Whoosh! Wind whipped her disheveled hair into her eyes and sprayed pebbly dust across her bare legs. I must be getting closer, she thought. She peered into the gloom. The wind squall parted an ugly clump of bracken, revealing a smooth glowing orb. Scarlett sighed with relief. She crouched low and crept closer, listening to the deep thrum that pulsed from within the moon globe.

HERE’S KATE: (In Bold)

Seeking Scarlett by Cathy Ballou Mealey   Middle Grade

Puff! Puff! Scarlett sprinted toward the clearing, pausing once to catch her breath. Behind her, a wolf crashed through the underbrush, tracking the scent of her fear. The sound faded slowly into the distance. ARROOO! (I find that the onomatopoeia is really contrasting unpleasantly with the subject matter. It SOUNDS very young and innocent to use sound-words. But “tracking the scent of her fear” is terrifying.)  The wolf howled bitterly at his loss of his prey. (Also, the wolf disappears quickly. Once second he’s in the undergrowth behind her, the next he’s lost his prey?) Though she had safely reached the halfway mark, his angry bay still caused Scarlett’s neck to prickle with fear. She pushed on.

At the cliff’s edge, terns squawked shrilly and circled in the sky. Scarlett scanned the rocky ledge, unable to discern the cause of their distress. Dark grasses stood sentry in the still night air. Nothing seemed amiss. She clutched her woolen cloak tightly around her shoulders and stepped out. (I actually like this better as a first paragraph. It’s descriptive, symbolic, and moody, and sets the tone for something sinister.)

Scarlett picked her way along the path, grateful for the faint gleam of moonlight. Forgetting to bring her grandmother’s lantern had been her first mistake. Lantern light might have prevented her from taking that wrong turn in the forest, too close to the wolf’s terrain. (Why did she forget the lantern? Was she in a rush? Is her journey of an urgent nature? That seems more important. “Entrusted with this important mission” is also way too “telly”. I might suggest something more like: “Forgetting to bring her grandmother’s lantern in the urgency of her departure had been her first mistake. Losing her way without it had been her second. Scarlett knew her mission. She knew she must be more careful from now on.”)

Scarlett knew she must be more careful now that she alone was entrusted with this important mission.

Whoosh! Wind whipped her disheveled hair into her eyes and sprayed pebbly dust across her bare legs. (too many adjectives) I must be getting closer, she thought. She peered into the gloom. The wind squall (what is a wind squall? I’m pretty sure this doesn’t work. A squall is a storm or commotion, often involving wind, so it’s redundant, but moreover not sure what I’m supposed to be envisioning.) parted an ugly clump of bracken, revealing a smooth glowing orb. Scarlett sighed with relief. She crouched low and crept closer, listening to the deep thrum that pulsed from within the moon globe. (Intriguing first page. Trust your voice. That first paragraph seems obviously put in because you were nervous about not having action! Also be wary of too many adjectives and telling too much information on the first page. We don’t need info or background, we need intrigue. You’ve got it here, and there are moments of real clarity of voice. Stay true to that.)

______________________________________________________________________________

STAR CROSSED by Donna Marie Taylor – Middle Grade

What is it about the night sky that’s kept me awake for a week? My parents and younger brother have slept soundly and I’ve been able to drift to sleep well enough, but as if stirred by Cinderella’s clock, my eyes are nudged open, my feet find my slippers and the view from my bedroom window draws me to its sill to rest my head on my arms from midnight till dawn.

I feel as if I’m waiting for something to happen or simply waiting for some thing, though can’t put my finger on what. As far as I can tell, nothing unusual is going on. Each night the waxing moon has played hide and seek behind drifting clouds, though tonight the winds are pushing them in a swift stream across its full face. What is odd is my being awake at this hour, affording me glimpses of shooting stars beyond the treetops on the edge of our wood. And there’s another! I can see it through breaks in the clouds with its magnificent trail cutting through the blackness, only this one appears to be heading in this direction! Heading—here!

Meteorically, a glowing white orb punches a hole through a large cloud not far off. Seeming to sense impending danger, bats and birds rise above the trees, flapping frantically, and animals flee the forest floor, their squawks and howls creating a sudden din. Now upon them, the beach ball-sized orb cracks through large branches as if it were snapping twigs, and lands with a thud in the thicket at the wood’s edge. It is so luminous, the shadow it casts of me on my wall competes with that of the moon’s. This must be it. This must be what I’ve been waiting for! I can sense it and move outside without thinking, not realizing until now that I’d grabbed my cloak. I put it on to shield myself from gusts that threaten to pull me off my feet as I approach the orb.

All is quiet again, except for the wind and a soft thumping sound. I’m close enough to feel the warmth emitted from this mysterious object. It is egg-shaped and I realize it is the source of the thumping. Several yards away, a curious but apprehensive fox eyes the egg too. Now close enough, I long to touch it, but fear its heat. Then I hear it–the muffled sound of a baby’s cry.

HERE’S KATE’S CRITIQUE: (IN BOLD)

Star Crossed  by Donna Marie Taylor – Middle Grade

What is it about the night sky that’s kept me awake for a week? (great first line!) My parents and younger brother have slept soundly and I’ve been able to drift to sleep well enough, but as if stirred by Cinderella’s clock, my eyes are nudged open, my feet find my slippers and the view from my bedroom window draws me to its sill to rest my head on my arms from midnight till dawn. (second line is too long and clunky, though! Try breaking it up.)

I feel as if I’m waiting for something to happen or simply waiting for some thing, (don’t love the echo between “something” and “thing” though can’t put my finger on what.)

As far as I can tell, nothing unusual is going on. (cut. Too “telling”)  Each night the waxing moon has played hide and seek behind drifting clouds, though tonight the winds are pushing them in a swift stream across its full face. [GREAT line. Very descriptive and shows us what you mean.)

What is odd is my being awake at this hour, affording me (“affordng me” is awk. Maybe
“though it affords me”)  glimpses of shooting stars beyond the treetops on the edge of our wood. And there’s another! I can see it through breaks in the clouds with its magnificent trail  (Not to be a stickler, but if the comet was heading straight towards the narrator, he or she wouldn’t see a trail. It would be a simple white orb growing bigger and bigger.) cutting through the blackness, only this one appears to be heading in this direction! Heading—here! (too! many! exclams! Also seems like a quick conclusion to jump to, might actually take the narrator longer. “And there’s another. I can see it through breaks in the clouds with it’s magnificent trail cutting through the blackness. As I watch, something seems different about this one, but it takes me a few beats to realize what. And then another to believe it. This one is heading in this direction. Heading– here!”)

Meteorically, a glowing white orb punches a hole through a large cloud not far off. (seems odd. Clouds are always far. Maybe “the nearest cloud”) Seeming to sense impending danger, bats and birds rise above the trees, flapping frantically, and animals flee the forest floor, their squawks and howls creating a sudden din. Now upon them, the beach ball-sized orb cracks through large branches as if it were snapping twigs, and lands with a thud in the thicket at the wood’s edge. It is so luminous, the shadow it casts of me on (awk. I’m not a copyeditor, but is an case of mismatched antecedent or passive voice?) my wall competes with that of the moon’s. This must be it. This must be what I’ve been waiting for! I can sense it (“this must” means narrator is assuming this is what he or she has been waiting for– a rational thought. “sense it” indicates instinct. Which is it?) and move outside without thinking, not realizing until now (Jump in timeline) that I’d grabbed my cloak. I put it on to shield myself from gusts that threaten to pull me off my feet as I approach the orb.

All is quiet again, except for the wind and a soft thumping sound. I’m close enough to feel the warmth emitted from this mysterious object. It is egg-shaped and I realize it is the source of the thumping. Several yards away, a curious but apprehensive fox eyes the egg too. Now close enough, I long to touch it, but fear its heat. Then I hear it–the muffled sound of a baby’s cry. (oooh, fun! Some wonderful lines and ideas here! I’m just being a stickler for detail her or there, continuity, etc. There’s also some sloppy sentence-constructing– but there are others that are extremely intriguing and pretty and more than make up for it! Good start. )


Check back on Sunday for January Free Fall Free Picture Prompt.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Kathy, I have truly fallen in love with your Free Fall Fridays 🙂 I ALways learn so much, and love to see what I do or don’t pick up in comparison to the professional’s eye 🙂

    I see the first two pages were probably from WIPs and the last two were from the picture prompt. I enjoyed all of them, and in respect to mine, thank you, Kate! You made points about several things I hadn’t realized! I can find present tense awkward so rarely use it, but have experimented with Kathy’s first pages. Of course, we also have our 23-line limit, so many times, though we may want to be more descriptive, we can’t. Or won’t. At least I know I often find myself playing with rewording because one letter can push my sentences onto page two! lol It’s ’cause I always want to make the last sentence a hook 🙂

    Anyway, thank you both for the time it took to critique the pages, then post them. SO much fun!
    Donna

    Like

  2. Thank you Ms. Sullivan for your helpful critique and guidance! I feel much more certain of how to revise my first page to maximize voice, maintain pace and offer the right balance of action and description. Thanks also to Kathy – these critiques are such a helpful way to learn from all the work that is submitted!

    Like

  3. Great stories and helpful critique!

    Like


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