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Author Topic: YA first 13
RoxyL
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Hiya. I'm newly back to writing after many years and coming out of lurkdom. It's been a real pleasure to read so many fantastic first 13's, and the criticism is very informative.
This is the beginning of a YA story I mocked up to try to help me iron out the many wrinkles in my writing. I'm very nervous. My heart says be gentle, but my head says be brutal. Better go with my head or the writing won't get any better, right?
Have at it, and thanks!


There was a chill up Beatriceís back which went unnoticed during the height of the fever and for days afterward when consciousness and nightmare wove together like thread on her motherís loom. Weak and frail, she lay alone in the too big rush bed she and little Jane shared for warmth. Her sisterís side was cold, and had been for weeks. Silenced was the familiar muffled cadence of father and brother chanting to the fall of the axe and the crack of split firewood. The smells beyond the sleeping chamber were not broth and bread but pungent disinfectant herbs and charred things that stung the nose and made her eyes swim.
Plague had stolen them all. It should have taken her, too.


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KayTi
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Hi Roxy - I write YA too! I think this must be fantasy, so I'm assuming that and it colors the direction of my feedback. If I'm wrong, though, by all means correct.

As with all feedback, take what works, leave the rest.

I think the primary feedback I have is to make this more active. You're using quite a lot of passive forms of sentences - there was a chill, silenced was the..., etc. Most YA readers are pretty action-oriented, they love for things to be happening. With the passive form of sentences it feels like these things are in the distant past instead of simple (recent) past. For example: A chill ran up Beatrice's back sounds more active than there was a chill up Beartice's back.

I also got a little confused with the statements about who was there - I think you may need to say "she and little Jane had once shared..." or something to indicate that Jane wasn't just in another room, but dead.

Style point, but usually in dealing with descriptors like "too-big" I hyphenate them, to indicate the words belong together. A more english-majory friend of mine suggested this form ages ago and it suits me. No idea if it's actually grammatically correct.

I think you need a comma somewhere in the sentence where you contrast the broth smell with the herb smell - just to help the reader get the idea that these two thoughts are contradictory.

I think you end the first thirteen with a good hook - the plague took the others, but left Beatrice...makes me wonder why.

Good luck with this, looks like you've got a great start!


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TrishaH24
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First of all, I like this. I got the setting almost right away. That is a very good thing. The sooner I know what type of book I'm reading (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal romance, horror...), the better.

I don't know if you meant to do this, but it felt like that first sentence was pulled way back and very distant. You did a good job of getting closer to the main character, but that first line doesn't hook me much. (I'd like to add here that the last line was a fantastic hook and I see that it needs the build up from the previous sentences, but the first one is a little weak.) Now this is just peronal opinion but I like third person to be very tight.

You mentioned in your introduction that you think you tend towards YA. It is sometimes hard to tell in 13 lines, but this doesn't feel like YA. Again, just my opinion.

From a technical standpoint, I think you did a great job. It flows nicely, you have a very good sense of where thhings are going, which makes me as a reader feel like I'm in capable hands. The character is someone I feel sorry for which helps me like her. (If I'm reading this right, her family is dead, including her sister...who is in the bed with her? How horrible!) I'm glad you joined hatrack and posted (after all, you can only learn so much by lurking, lol.)

I hope this helped and let me know if you get to a point where you're ready for readers! (You can email me from my contact information.)

Trish


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satate
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Ewww, creepy. I like it, though I have to agree the first sentence is a mouthfull. I was also wondering about the chill. Is it important? The way the sentence was worded made me think the chill should have been noticed because it meant something important.

Also it's not clear if she is still in the midst of the fever or if she is coming out of it and is just weak from the sickness.

Good first thirteen though. I would keep reading.


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Pyre Dynasty
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You hyphenate the two word descriptors if they are before the thing being described. Too-big rush bed, or rush bed that was too big.
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RoxyL
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I love you guys already! Thank you so much.
To answer some questions, NO, I did not want her in bed with a corpse - yuck! (maybe I'll have to work that into a Halloween story somewhere). When I wrote the chill up her back I was thinking of how my little daughter shimmies up against my back when she crawls into bed with me after a nightmare. When she leaves, there's always this cold spot on my spine.
But that's why I love you guys. I get so stupidly wordy that my writing is incomprehensible.
Thank you for the feedback. Is this one more clear?


Pieces of her were missing. The loss went unnoticed during the height of the fever. She scarcely felt the prick of their absence during days of nightmare and fretfulness afterward. But consciousness stabbed with painful clarity. Beatrice crept a tremulous hand across the rush mattress to her sisterís side. It was still cold and empty; it had been for weeks. Forever silenced the familiar muffled cadence of father and brother, the fall of the axe, the crack of split firewood. The scent beyond the sleeping chamber was no longer broth and bread. It smelled of astringent herbs and charred things that stung the nose and made Beaís eyes swim.
Plague had stolen them all. It should have taken her, too.


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axeminister
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Wow, second one... better much?
Not that the first one stunk, just that this one is better.

A few things:
I have a real problem with the whole fall of the axe thing. I just don't like the idea of me falling anywhere...

The first sentence felt odd. I think until we know more about the story or your writing style you should shy away from something that could be taken literally.
I think OK to mention her name in the first sentence too instead of the generic "her".

Your words are very succinct. Missing, loss, cold, empty. This is good.

I personally have a problem with sentences that mislead. This one:
crept... hand... to her sister's side.
This sentence says her sister is there, then the next one says she's not.
Can you combine them?
"Crept a tremulous hand to where her sister used to be..."

Please take that as an opinion of my own, and not a characteristic of the writing or your style... this 13 is darn good.

Oh, one more thing. As the narrator/author, keep your name convention consistent. Beatrice or Bea - in dialog it can change, but not narration.

I believe this is protocol, and not opinion... Maybe someone can back me up or prove me wrong on this one?

This reminds me of Octavian Nothing.
If you haven't read it, do so. It's YA, it's literary, it's good.

Axe (of the non falling kind)


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satate
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I like the second one too, and have to second Axe on a few things. When I read the first line I immediately started wondering what was missing, her arm, parts of her memories? It's becuase I'm a fantasy/scifi reader, we take everything litterally.

The sister's side of the mattress thing - when you said "to her sister's side" I thought you litterally meant the side of her body, but that may have been because of the first one. I really thought you meant she was in bed with her dead sister. I would just add "sister's side of the bed," to make it clearer.

I wouldn't change Beatrice's name either, though it didn't mess up my reading, some may wonder if you mean a different person.


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MAP
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Welcome to Hatrack.

I really like this too, both of them, but the second version is better.

quote:
Pieces of her were missing. This is a little vague and meaningless. I think the next sentence makes a stronger first line. The loss went unnoticed during the height of the fever. She scarcely felt the prick of their absence during days of nightmare and fretfulness afterward. This is a little vague as well. I get what you are saying, she didn't realize her family was gone while she was sick, but I think if you referred to specific symptoms of fever and delirium or whatever instead of the vague terms of "nightmare" and "fretfulness afterward", it would read better. But consciousness stabbed with painful clarity. Once again this is vague. I'd like it to be more specific. Beatrice crept (I agree with others. Crept gives the wrong visual, maybe stretched?) a tremulous hand across the rush mattress to her sisterís side adding "of the bed" would make this clearer. It was still cold and empty; it had been for weeks. Forever silenced the familiar muffled cadence of father and brother, the fall of the axe, the crack of split firewood. The scent beyond the sleeping chamber was no longer broth and bread. It smelled of astringent herbs and charred things ("things" is vague again, be more specific) that stung the nose and made Beaís eyes swim.
Plague had stolen them all. It should have taken her, too.

These are just my suggestions so feel free to ignore them if you like. Overall, I do really like this and would most definitely read on. I'd be happy to look over chapter 1 if you are looking for readers.

Good luck with this.


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