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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » 1st 13, YA fantasy

   
Author Topic: 1st 13, YA fantasy
DerekBalsam
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These are the first 13 of a YA fantasy with about 50,000 words so far; target is about 75k. I'd appreciate any feedback on:

-whether this makes you want to read any more; since it's a novel, I'm not trying to hook anyone as deeply as with a short story, but I don't want them falling asleep on the first page either;
-general critique on this paragraph (this happens to be the entirety of the opening paragraph).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, folks.

========================
Gam struggled to hoist the axe before letting it drop deep into the yellowbark wood. He enjoyed chopping wood, indeed any kind of work with tools, but he hated having to do it for his father. This was the last cord of wood Gam needed to cut for the smithy, which was just as well since it was growing quite dark. The gray Moon and its companion shed little light through the thick clouds, making the work even more difficult and dismal. His attention wandered to the evening sky. He sought and found the Northern Hexagon, and bright Telemar near the eastern horizon. He wondered if the planets were really other worlds just like Rha, as his father said. He suspected and even hoped that Oto was right, and that the colored points in the sky were something other than they seemed.
========================


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JSchuler
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quote:
Gam struggled to hoist the axe before letting it drop deep into the yellowbark wood. [Why is he struggling? Is he weak? Is he uncoordinated? Are his arms burning after cutting down a forest?] He enjoyed chopping wood, indeed any kind of work with tools, but he hated having to do it for his father. [Personally, I now expect something to be said about his father, and why he had this reaction.]This was the last cord [Don't need "of wood."] Gam needed to cut for the smithy, which was just as well since it was growing quite dark. The gray Moon and its companion shed little light through the thick clouds, making the work even more difficult and dismal. His attention wandered to the evening sky. He sought and found the Northern Hexagon, [That reads like a constellation, but there are "thick clouds." How is he seeing them?] and bright Telemar near the eastern horizon. He wondered if the planets were really other worlds just like Rha, as his father said. He suspected and even hoped that Oto was right, and that the colored points in the sky were something other than they seemed.

Ok, the wood cutting doesn't thrill me, and I have problems with the light levels (light enough to cut wood, but dark enough for the moon to shine through thick cloud cover, which doesn't block starlight). But your last two sentences get me somewhat interested, but that may be because I'm misreading the genre. If you're talking pre-modern era development level society, and hinting at space travel, I'm camping out. Otherwise, if it's around modern day tech or more advanced, it's not enough.


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PB&Jenny
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I agree with what JSchuler is saying about the light levels. That was throwing me off a bit.
Also I'm confused with the first sentence.
quote:

Gam struggled to hoist the axe before letting it drop deep into the yellowbark wood.


It reads to me like he just dropped the axe. What about saying it like this;
quote:
Gam struggled to hoist the axe before sinking it deep into the yellowbark wood.

I can visualize that in my head better.
I like the pace of the writing and would definitely read more.

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axeminister
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This 13 has my name in it so I am compelled to comment.

I agree with JSchuler on all but one thing. Keep (of wood) because of your target age group. I'm thinking not all teenagers know what a cord is. Plus it keeps the rhythm better.

I'd also like to mention this a fine scene, but I'm not convinced it should be the first scene. It seems a little mundane and might go a ways toward furthering Gam's dislikes, but it doesn't knock my socks off.

Some form of spec element is up front tho, so that's good too.

Axe


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WouldBe
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Everyone is weak if they chop wood long enough . As you've pointed out, it is not a thrilling subject, chopping wood. If it so happens that it can be tied to some aggressive event later, you could foretell it, giving the scene more interest. For example, you've hinted that he has a difficult relationship with his father, so if it is *very* difficult and important, he might imagine his father's neck on the log.

Seconding on the cloud issue and visibility of other heavenly bodies. Maybe you can say 'the patch of heavy clouds'.

I think the opening can be trimmed a bit to speed the reader along, leaving space in the opening for another tidbit. Here are some suggestions:

He enjoyed chopping wood and working with tools, except doing so for his father.

Some phrases that could be <cut> with little damage:

last cord of wood Gam needed< to cut> for the smithy<, which was just as well since it was growing quite dark>. [The darkness is indicated two other times: evening sky, and view of constellations]

even more <difficult and >dismal

He <sought and >found

He suspected and <even >hoped

Good luck.


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DerekBalsam
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Thanks for taking a look at this.

--Very good catch, all, on the light levels; don't know how I missed that. I have a certain image in my head (patch of thick clouds moving in but not covering the sky, and dusk just turning to night) but failed to conveying. I'll rework that for sure!

--Jschuler:

quote:
Why is he struggling? Is he weak? Is he uncoordinated? Are his arms burning after cutting down a forest?

These are great questions, in fact the exact sort of questions I want you to be asking right now.

quote:
Personally, I now expect something to be said about his father, and why he had this reaction.

The 14th line is Gam's father's introduction; alas, I just missed being able to include it. Suffice it to say Dad's a bit of a hardass.

PB&Jenny, I like 'sinking', thanks for that.

axeminster, this is a tricky question for me. I'm trying to establish a mundane existence for Gam, but not wanting to make the experience too mundane for the reader;

and WouldBe, I appreciate your cut suggestions. Some are stylistic choices, but I quite agree about the darkness. Yeah, I get it, Derek, it's dark....

--Regarding 'cord of wood', probably for YA I'll leave it in.

You've been helpful, I appreciate it.



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PB&Jenny
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If you're looking for any readers, I'd be glad to do so.
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