What do you think?
As promised here is my edit of a brave writer’s first 200 words! Feel free to leave your comments (only helpful, respectful ones, thanks!) at the bottom of the post (if tumblr lets you, it’s been acting up lately). Readers are as different as writers and my word does not have to rule :)
So here ya go! First of all, major round of applause to our first brave (anonymous) writer!
This is the text as I received it:
The siren blared as loud as a chilling scream, shocking me awake and immersing me in terror. Not again, not now. Please not now. Leaping out of bed I yanked on my boots and scooped up Hazel who was barely even awake despite the noise and bolted for the door, grabbing her coat and boots along the way. Putting her outside I went back to rescue a screaming Toby from his crib. He bawled and fought when I picked him up, his pudgy fists flying wildly; sleep still gluing his eyes shut.
“It’s okay, it’s Adda Toby. Everything’s fine.” I hushed; he stopped fighting against me but he still cried, fat tears streaming down his pasty cheeks. Hazel had managed to tug on her boots and had one arm in her coat when I came back outside. Despite it being summer there was a chill to the cloudless night’s air and she shivered in her grumpy just woken up state. “What about mama?” She whimpered, rubbing her drooping eyes, looking younger than her elven years.
- This story starts right in the middle of a conflict, something’s happening and we want to know what. The reader is drawn in and wants to keep reading.
- I caught only one typo. Okay, maybe that’s a con ;) elEven
- Good mingling of dialogue, narration, and thoughts
- There is no paragraph formatting here and it might be because it was sent as an ask, so I’m not going to blame it on our awesome author, but in doubt check my post on manuscript formatting
- The punctuation is a bit all over the place. For example there’s a comma missing after the first thought. As it is I am unsure who’s bolting and grabbing the coat, Hazel or the narrator? Also, semicolons and colons are almost never used and they’re best avoided, but if you want to use them use them correctly. Semicolons are a separation between two independent clauses (if you replaced them with a period the two sentences would make sense on their own) while colons imply a list or an explanation.
- You introduce three characters in 200 words. That’s a lot! In my edit (below) I cut out Toby’s name.
- Avoid comparisons unless necessary. A siren blaring is clear enough
- Choose verbs carefully. You want the idea of sudden awakening in fear. If the siren wakes her and then “immerses her” you infer the idea of a temporal separation, you slow down that rush of adrenaline. I don’t think hushing is the verb you want. Soothing maybe? Cooing? Same for whimpered, maybe mumbled?
- You seem to use a lot of gerunds and longer sentences. This is a fast paced scene. Sometimes the rhythm of the narration helps convey a mood. If the scene is fast paced, use short, panic-inducing sentences ;)
- Avoid repeating words (like boots)
- Beware of exact descriptions. We’re in an emergency here. I know you know exactly how the scene plays out in your head, but do we need to know which clothes were grabbed and when? Make it fast, limit information to what we need or gives us a feeling (for example, are the clothes ragged? Plush? You could use them to tell us something about the characters, otherwise…cut)
- Be realistic! I know you want to tell the reader that the narrator is Adda, but would she really tell her name to a screaming baby she’s close enough to share a bedroom with? Maybe introduce her later?
- Bring me there. Are there any smells after the sirens go off? Or when they walk into the night? Any other sounds? People stomping around?
- Last sentence. “She shivered” I’m assuming it’s the 11 yo, since it’s female and third person, but I had to think about it. You snapped me out of the movie you were directing in my head. Always make subjects clear
MY OVERALL OPINION
This is good. You are definitely on to something! I know it might not seem so by the number of comments and edits I talked and will talk about, but alas, such is the nature of writing. The work here is good, there is action, I want to know more! Everything else is about sculpting it into perfection, and what that is will depend on the writer.
You’ll see that I added some flavor here and there, but that’s my style and I don’t know if that’s where you wanted to go, so edit away! Keep whatever you like and ditch the rest. It’s your baby :)
The siren blared into the night, shocking me awake with a renewed wave of terror. Not again, not now. Please not now. I leaped out of bed yanking on my work boots as the baby started to bawl. I swaddled him in a ragged blanket as I shook Hazel, still bleary from sleep.
“Hazel, come on! Get ready! Put your shoes on!”
Many feet were already stomping in the alley outside our shack. Someone slammed into our door and I thought it would come off its hinges.
“What about mama?” Hazel mumbled, fumbling for her clothes and looking a lot younger than her eleven years.
“Hurry!” I helped her with her coat and I seized her hand, holding the yelping baby to my chest. We ran out into the summer night, unseasonably chill, and were engulfed by the screaming crowd, their panic filling my head in between the siren’s loud warnings.
Wanna have feedback?
1-Start your message with “200 words”. Then paste in the first 200 words of your work. Send it anytime, I will answer when I can :)
Why only two hundred words?
-You need to engage your reader within 100
-I’m gonna lose my mind if I’m overwhelmed
2-Specify the length of the entire work (either because you have it or an estimate will do, for example you could say this will be a novel or flash fiction)
3-I will share my opinion and editing of your work with the tumblr community and we’ll start a debate. This type of post will be titled “do you agree?” So everyone can chime in and you can get multiple feedbacks :)
4-As a rule, I will leave your work anonymous so you don’t feel on the spot, but if you are brave let me know and I’ll leave your name on it
5-No poetry! I’m in no way qualified to criticize it. I can only enjoy it :)
5-I will ignore messages that don’t comply. Please be nice to me and everyone else :)