Monday, September 19, 2011

First Paragraphs: Final Critiques

Thank you to the talented writers who offered their first paragraphs for critique, and to everyone who took part in helping with the critiques in the comments section. Now it's the critique sisters' turn. Here we go:

first paragraph 1
Author: Lin Wash  
Story Description: YA medieval fantasy. I follow the perspectives of three characters, one of whom will later be accused of witchcraft.

First Paragraph:
From the cottage doorway, she looked like a doll left on the bed: small and fragile. Even the hill of the child she carried seemed dwarfed by the faded patchwork quilt.

Karlene: I like this a lot!! Creative. Fresh, and puts me in the room looking at the woman on the bed. I’m first wondering if the colon is needed after "bed?" And second, I stumbled a bit on the “hill” because I immediately had the visual of huge, and yet she’s dwarfed. "Carried" and "seemed dwarfed" also threw me a bit. What if it was mound? I’m seeing someone standing in the doorway looking in. So… I want it more present. What about…
“Even the mound of the child she carries is dwarfed by the faded patchwork quilt.”

Heather: This is beautiful Lin! The imagery is excellent. I wouldn't change a thing about the first sentence. I got a little confused reading the second sentence though. With the first sentence it felt as though we were standing at a door looking in, then the second sentence had us moving it felt like. Again, I love the imagery in the second sentence too though. The child being dwarfed by the patchwork quilt is a lovely picture. With a little tightening/clarifying this will be fantastic!

Linda: The images are vivid and evocative in these sentences, nicely done. I did have to read the second sentence a couple of times—the word, 'hill' stopped me. It might need a couple more words to make it clearer.  One other thought: since this is the opening paragraph, it would be good to give readers a bit more grounding. Is it possible to identify who's talking? Even if you were to just identify the speaker as "I" that would help. (e.g. "From where I stood in the cottage doorway, she looked like a doll on the bed . . .) 

first paragraph 2
Author: Myne Whitman   
Story Description: My book is a romance where a 30years old lady vacationing in Nigeria from the US is seduced by the local hottie.

First Paragraph: 
“Dunni, when are we going to come and cook for your wedding?” In the dull light of dawn, Dunni glanced at the inquisitive eyes of the woman slicing onions beside her mother and looked away.

Karlene: First… Fun! Fun! Fun! I want to be that woman! ;) Okay… back to work.

I’m not sure who is talking here. Is the woman slicing onions beside mother speaking, or the mother? I’m guessing the mother. But I think we need a little clarity of who’s doing what. I like the feeling of what’s happening, but feels a bit awkward.

How about… (and I’m just playing a bit here)…

“When are we going to come and cook for your wedding?” Dunni’s mother asked her for the umpteenth time. In the dull light of dawn, Dunni glanced at the inquisitive eyes of the woman slicing onions beside her mother then looked away.

Does “then” work better than “and” looked away?

I hope this helps and I’m looking forward to reading both of these stories!!! Thank you ladies!

XOX Karlene

Heather: What a fun concept! I love stories that take place somewhere that feels exotic to me, and this definitely does! I like the opening sentence because it immediately tells me what's going to be happening soon. There is the anticipation of a wedding and all the fun/chaos that comes with it, that draws me in. The second sentence may have more power if you added something to the end of it like this: "and was forced to look away from the impatience within them". Of course it doesn't have to be that exactly, especially since I'm not sure what the woman is saying comes from impatience. All that I'm looking for in that second sentence is the reason Dunni looks away when she was the one who looked at the woman in the first place. Great job, you have a good beginning here!

Linda: I'm totally drawn in to this story by this opening. We all know what it's like for someone to be questioned or teased about why they're not married yet, and that's a plus for hooking the reader. Also, in this case, I'm aware that 'coming to cook for the wedding' is a cultural custom, and I'm excited that I'll be reading a story that incorporates this type of information about a culture that is different from my own. So you've got both universality and unusual information going for you. Nice. One caution: it can be disconcerting to open a chapter, let alone the first chapter, with dialogue, because the reader has no idea who the person talking is, or how they figure into the story, until you tell them. If your immediate next sentences make these things clear by providing a context, then it's probably not an issue.


  1. LOve t.hese kinds of critiques. Both stories sound awesome

  2. Thanks, Em, we love doing them. The stories are intriguing, aren't they? So much talent out there!

  3. Hi, ladies,

    Great ctits... What a wonderful way to help our fellow writers. Critiques are so important for us to grow as writers.

    Well done ladies.

  4. Thanks, Michael. I agree, critiques are essential to almost all of us to grow as writers (I have to say 'almost' because I once heard a famous writer say no one critiques his work and no one edits it. Personally, I don't like his stuff at all. It might be a whole lot better if he trusted a few good critiquers to help him! lol)

  5. Do you all know what the worse thing about getting advice from three people is? You have four different opinions (Yours included). Thank you all so much for participating. I'm excited to post my work so you can help me with my writing. It's great to get others views.

    Lyn and Myne, I want the interviews and to shout about your books... here on CSC... when they get published. I know both will be excellent reads!

    Thank you for a great post Linda!

    Come back on Friday! This process gave me a great idea for my Friday post.

  6. Heh, Karlene, so true. But at the same time it's also the BEST thing about getting critiques from three people. You can look for what is repeated, if anything, and focus on what resonates with you as the writer. No one person is a guru.

  7. Great critiques! You guys have to keep doing these. :)

  8. We will, Lydia, thank you! It's such a fun way to interact with so many great bloggers, and hopefully offer something useful in the process.

  9. Thank you so much for your critiques!!! I really appreciate the feedback.

  10. Thanks so much for participating, Lin. You've got a great start on your book.

  11. It was a pleasure and an honor to do these critiques. I want to send a huge thank you to Lin and Myne for participating. Great job ladies, and keep writing!

  12. I love this series. So neat to see the critique process in action. Thanks!

  13. I agree with everyone else that it is wonderful to see the process behind the critique.

    Fellow historical fiction campaigner here, way behind on visiting blogs. It may be the first time I'm here, but not the last!


  14. You're welcome, Laura! It's really fun to do. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Hi, Elizabeth. Yay, historical fiction! I'll drop by your blog to say hi there. Thanks for commenting here.

  16. This is very helpful for me, thank you so much!