Events: Book launch party for the last installment (book 4) of the Italian Saga!
Writing: Reading book one of my next series to my writers’ group, book 2 is finally finished! Just started book 3!
Reading: Started “Across the Universe”. Thanks @cla72abu for the recommendation :)
Word of the day: to limn (depict or describe in painting or words)
Want me to edit your first 200 words?
E-mail them to gaia.b.amman at gmail dot com with subject 200 words and keep an eye on the blog. If I select it I will edit it for free and post it on Tumblr for everyone to chime in. If I don’t post about it, I will still get back to you with my honest opinion <3
Let me know if you want your name or blog url in the post, or if you wish your work to remain anonymous. Feel free to reblog and add your personal answer or any comments you might find useful for the authors who submit their first 200 words. Disagreeing with me is very reasonable and encouraged ^_^
This is the text as I received it:
Ashley stared at the dull, gray wall, unsure how to feel about the situation she was in. Where had reality gone? When she woke up this morning, she never thought that she would be in this predicament. She never thought she’d be running for her life with a stranger she’s never seen before, scared to death for her family’s lives. She never thought that she’d be watching people killing each other mercilessly, but she never knew what would happen, or when.
It was a calm day, with the sun shining and a slight breeze when it happened, just like any other day. Ashley Whitaker had been taking a year off after graduating high school, so this was the first time in a while she had woken up early. Her mother, Abigail Thompson, was shaking her shoulders urgently, and the family of three gathered around the TV. The news was on, a reporter speaking quickly, a hint of fear in her tone. Cannibals, people lashing out, anarchy, it was hard to tell what she said with her fast-paced speaking. “At this time we have word that government officials will be focussing on high-class and politically important citizens to safety before turning their attention to others.” The family looked confused and angry at the news before they heard people yelling outside.
(Whispers it's about zombies)
- We start right in the middle of a crisis. The reader is thrown into the middle of action
- The piece is very well written! Good job!
Red flags you need to be careful about:
These are minor fixes any editor would catch, but that will cause your manuscript to be immediately click-deleted by most agents/publishers
- Not only you start with a flashback, but there’s a flashback within the flashback (first we are running, then it started with a sunny day, then we are waking up...how did we know it was a sunny day if Ashley was sleeping?) Keep your timeline as straightforward as possible
What I would change:
- Whenever possible, I avoid flashbacks. They are tricky for several reasons:
- Flashbacks tell us what happened rather than showing us
- Flashbacks are not as emotionally involving, because we know the main character survived to tell the story
- Sometimes they make the timeline confusing
My recommendation to you is show us the scene as it happens. If there’s a big lag of time between this scene and the rest of the book, call it a prologue ;)
- Would I keep reading? I am not sure. I would like to connect more emotionally with Ashley. Why is she home sleeping after finishing high school? Is she depressed? Is she ill? I would like to learn more about her and her thought so that I can care about her more.
Minor edits I would make:
- Choose your adjectives carefully. Do you really need “dull AND gray”? One strong adjective if often better. It gives flavor without limiting the imagination of your reader. For example you could say “dreary”
- Careful when you convey emotions or descriptions to your reader. General sentences like “unsure how to feel” don’t tell me much. (Same for general descriptors like ugly, beautiful etc...). Is Ashley apathetic? Is she terrified? Confused? Excited about running away with the guy? We need to know in which way she is confused, otherwise as readers we don’t feel much either ;) Everything that follows that sentence indicates terror. So why is she unsure on how to feel?
- Don’t introduce too many names at once. The reader will no remember. Mom can just be Mom for now. Later we can learn more about her ;)
Mostly I’m gonna change the timeline and show, rather than tell. So we will 1) wake up, 2) hell will break loose, 3) run away with the stranger. I liked your style a lot, I’ll try to keep it as much as possible but because the change is a bit radical my voice will come through. Change it again to reflect your lovely voice ^_^
Also, notice how I broke up the narration with dialogue and internal thoughts to speed up the pace a little.
I woke up gasping for air, Mom shaking me.
“What? WHAT?” I yelped.
Mom looked ashen, even in the dim light of the bedroom. “Get up! We’ve gotta leave, Ashley, something terrible is going on!”
“Wait, what?” I jumped out of bed. Mom had already run out of my room.
I opened the shutters, but the early morning looked sunny, quiet, serene. Two finches fluttered on--
“Close the shutters!” Mom yelled from the hallway. “And stay away from the window! Pack the essential, we’ve gotta go!”
The essential? Like what? Going where? Is she losing her mind?
I peeked in the hallway, where I could hear the news from the TV. “…an outbreak, maybe a virus, manifesting as cannibalism and extreme violence. The whole city will be under quarantine soon…”
I rolled my eyes. Some sensationalist garbage. Mom is too impressionable. “Mom--"
A loud crash, followed by Mom’s screams. “Ash, go hide! HIDE--”
Splintering wood, stomping, growling: adrenaline jarred me awake. Dad ran out of the bathroom, flying down the stairs, yelling, “Abby, Abby! Ash, go hide! Lock yourself--ABBY!!”
Screaming. So much screaming. I stood in my jammies, horrified, petrified between the urge to help my family and run the hell away. But where?
The window of my bedroom exploded in a deafening crash. I turned just on time to see a guy hurtling toward me. “Out, we’ve gotta run!”
I opened my mouth. “My family! They’re--”
“As good as dead,” he answered, loading me on his shoulder and running for the window.
Did you like the original better? Do you have any other suggestions or comments? Join the conversation ^_^
Who am I to give you advice?
I am GB Amman, the author of the Italian Saga (#TIS), a YA series taking place in gorgeous Italy, and talking about everything important with humor and feels aplenty.
The last volume, book 4, comes out November 6th!!! YAY ^_^
The books are recommended for ages 13 and above, but most of my readers are adults.
Get the Indie author Guide free! ^_^
Get it for free here :)